Thursday, 21 April 2011

Max Planck's English

Before I comment on the Max Planck Institute’s Study on the Overall Functioning of the European Trade Mark System, I have to get two things off my chest, and if I do it now I might be more constructive with what I say about the substance of the document. Also, as separate comments they stand a better chance of coming to the attention of those to whose attention they should come. 

First, I am frankly appalled at the quality of the writing, about which I haven't seen anyone else say anything. As a taxpayer, I should not be expected to accept work of this quality. And my dismay is compounded by the discovery that the English version is the only version offered on the French and German-language versions of the Commission's website. So, a German institute prepared the document in English, in which form it is offered to speakers of all the other European Union languages. If only it were good English.

Brits must take great care before criticising the linguistic skills of other nationalities, I know, but this document is so badly rendered into English that there are points at which its meaning disappears. Apparently it came in below budget, but how much better if that money had been spent on a professional translation. It would surely have been perfectly practicable to have a literate native English-speaker polish it up before publication. Sentences like:
Development of IT tools dedicated to support national authorities in the fields of the combat to counterfeiting such as image searchable IT tools (para 1.57)
are inexcusable, but we can read past the incorrect prepositions, wrong parts of verbs and lackof punctuation to uncover the meaning. Likewise:
The Hungarian office has indicated that despite of …
Words like “trasferreded” should not have slipped through the net, “do” does sound like “due” if you learnt English from Hollywood films, “easy-friendly” might be a useful neologism, and the battle to preserve the word “datum” by ensuring “data” remains plural has probably been lost already. “Eventually” is a false friend to most non-native speakers of English.

When a document is so badly presented, one begins to wonder whether it is equally slipshod in substantive areas. I don't think it is - although there is much to criticise - but it would have greater credibility if it were written in good English. At least - so far - I have not been unable to understand what it is trying to say.

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