Thursday, 22 March 2007

What have Jam doughnuts, Global Warming and Tourists got in Common?

"Ich bin ein Berliner" was famously said by President Kennedy during the cold War, while visiting the then divided city. Which of course really meant he identified with the people of Berlin. But was much the same as saying "I am a sausage" (Frankfurter) or "I'm a Big Mac" (Hamburger). Because to a German, a Berliner is also a jam doughnut. Tricky thing language, you have to be so careful with these fine nuances.

IUCN -- the International Union for Conservation of Nature is, as its name suggests international, and works in many languages. Always a problem. And no doubt some of these problems arise from the fact that many people are not working in their first language. And this does give rise to some humour. I recently received a CD entitled "Climate Change Resource Kit". Innocuous enough, though not too clear what it was for. But the sub-text made it quite clear it was an "Information pack for planners and practitioners of Climate Change". Ho, ho, ho. For those of you reading this who are not native English speakers, I should explain that this implies it is aimed at people intending to make climate change happen, and those who are actually making it happen. An even more entertaining title was "Hunting Tourists in Tanzania"; a title which came to mind when our web manager brought back the attached snap from Barcelona last week.

Why call it Tourist Season if we can't shoot them: A snap shot from Barcelona

Makes a change from my usual rants.....

But there is a more serious aspect to getting language absolutely correct. Anyone who is familiar with the history of CITES will know the problems of the translations of "bred in captivity", which was translated into the equivalent of "raised in captivity" in the French version (elevé) -- this had profound effects on the interpretation as to whether or not turtle eggs could be gathered in the wild.

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