Friday, April 30, 2010

Really Lost in Translation

As newspaper blunders go, this one is a real doozy!

But when I read Javed Chaudhry's translated Urdu column in the Express Tribune this morning, not having read the original in (the Urdu daily) Express on the 27th, I simply could make neither head nor tail of it. It seemed to me to be a column written about two years ago and for the life of me I could not make out why it had been published today. And why did I think that? Because the headline of the oped was:

"A conversation with Abdul Hameed Dogar"

And of course because the rest of the column referred in glowing terms to "Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar's" long working hours, the amount of cases being expeditiously handled by him while sitting in the Supreme Court, Dogar's open admiration for Justice Rana Bhagwandas - the Supreme Court's senior-most judge who refused to accept General Musharraf's diktat against the judiciary which Dogar had gladly accepted ("It is we who are Muslims but it is Rana sahib who has stronger belief [in democracy]") , his praise for the independent media (the same media, it may be recalled, that had hounded Dogar for his daughter's nepotistic admission to a college over the heads of more qualified candidates), his belief that the PPP government should continue rather than be dismissed by him as 'many are predicting' (much to Chaudhry's 'astonishment' and my confusion since I never knew that Dogar was ever considered anything less than beholden to Asif Zardari for his support), etc etc etc... I thought I was in some episode of The Twilight Zone.

Lost in translation: Javed Chaudhry

Well, as it turns out, it was not me but the Express Tribune staff that's in some sort of twilight. Or at least tubelight. As you can verify from the original Urdu piece posted here, Javed Chaudhry's piece was actually about Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry! And his name is mentioned no less than three times in just the first para. In spite of the fact that his chief protocol officer is referred to as "Hameed sahib", for the life of me I cannot understand how the current chief justice's name was substituted for that of the disgraced former judge who, under the Supreme Court's own ruling, is no longer to be considered as ever having been the lawful chief justice.

 Note to ET: NOT Abdul Hameed Dogar

ET staffers are apparently putting the entire blame on the translator but it must be said that the level of oversight involved here is just mind-boggling. Surely a bunch of other sub-editors and editors would have - or should have - seen the piece before and once it was 'pasted' on to the page. Are we to assume that nobody saw anything bizarre in the article? Or that nobody at ET can read Urdu?

Unfortunately, ET has changed the story as it appears on their website now, to reflect a corrected version. And they still do not have an epaper version for you to see this hilarious blunder in all its gloriousness. But I will update the post tomorrow with a scan of the print edition to keep all of you entertained.

But what of the story itself? Considering that it was an exclusive given to Javed Chaudhry by Justice Chaudhry - a mere day or two before the damning judgements reversing the government's controversial multi-billion dollar LNG deal and the elevation of over 50 bureaucrats to secretary-level grade - probably to assuage the government's paranoia about the judiciary out to get it (the title of the Urdu column was "There is no threat to the system"), you can imagine how frustrated both Chaudhries must be. After all, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had gone out of his way to praise Benazir Bhutto as well, only to see it all being credited (at least in English) to his former nemesis Dogar.

Or is this what is known as poetic justice for PR exercises?

Expect a big-ass apology from ET in tomorrow morning's paper.

*** UPDATE on 30 April 2010 ***

As promised, here is the scan of the article as printed yesterday:

Meanwhile, the apology has come in the form of a "deeply regretted" correction notice on the op-ed pages that blames the translation as expected. "The mistake crept in because the name of the chief protocol officer happens to be Mr. Hameed" says the notice. Inconsiderate man that chief protocol officer.


amnakm said...

I just wanted to know if you guys have any inside story about why "bolta Pakistan" has gone off-air all of a sudden?

Mighty said...

LOL! I mean, really! I don't know what to say... WOW!

@amnakm: both Mushtaq Minhas and Nusrat Javed have quit Aaj and have joined Dunya. One of them is currently filling in on Hasb-e-Haal, while a show with a working title of 'Bolti Dunya' (HOW LAZY CAN YOU BE) is in the works!

know it all said...

Great post CPM. You and I must be on the same wavelength because without commenting on the substance of Javed Chaudhry's piece in ET, I simply wanted Cafe Pyala to address this issue---the issue of these translations of these Urdu columns into English. Why should this be done? And if it is done, then it should clearly say that the column is a translation from the Urdu which appeared in such-and-such paper on such-and-such date!

Otherwise, it is just plain deception! People like JC, Dr. SM, Rahimullah Yusafzai, and so on who can not string two sentences together in English are now writing eloquent columns!? And before anyone attacks me for having an English-medium superiority complex---let me just say that if I write a column in English and it is translated into Urdu--the same rule should apply---it should not be passed off as my having written it in Urdu (as much as I would love to be able to write eloquently in Urdu and reach a far wider audience I don't have the skill to do it)--so people should not be deceived.

Are these people such ego maniacs that they can't be satisfied with their Urdu columns--they have to have them translated as well---and they go on tv with their whole hour slots---wtf??

As far as I know, this is a practice unique to News and now ET. I have not seen DT do it--well, Talat Hussain was writing there but I think that was not a translation--he probably was writing the original in English---and I have not seen Dawn do it either.

And amnakm, Mighty is right---they are going to Dunya--the show is scheduled to launch mid-may.

Anonymous said...

off the topic, but from where i can find current affair programs ratings?

Anonymous said...

When ET is starting e-paper?

Aftab Iqbal of Hasbe Hal is missing? Has he left? Program quality has gone down.

Anonymous said...

Was the great Op-Ed Omar Qureshi having nap? How he missed this?

Anonymous said...

Now I understand the meaning of SMILES in following Tweet;

ambreenhaider am amazed *and quite proud* of the number of people reading teh Express Tribune at work. the smiles on their faces =) @SabaImtiaz

Faiza said...

@ Know it all: I have the same reaction to columns like Javed Chaudhry's and others. Getting translated and published in multiple outlets is not a problem. But it's absolutely essential for the editors to affix a note like: "An Urdu version of this column appeared in Daily Express on so-and-so date". This should be standard practice.

And maybe in other cases: "This column was submitted in Urdu and translated into English by the ET/News/... staff".

Anonymous said...

The name of Translator's name should also be mentioned for "later laurels" in similar cases.

Anonymous said...


The Translator's name should also be mentioned for "later laurels" in similar cases.

(never blame the Translator. He is also an human being and may be in hurry:)

mcphisto said...

Its not a jibe or any malicious attack at ET, but they need to proof-read once the dummy pages are printed.

Check Today (friday's)front page. right under the picture of Gilani and Manmohan Singh, is a news story with the slug Defending champions, and the headline that reads:

"Pakistan to play Bangladesh today"

May Lord help both Pakistan and ET.

Anonymous said...

Can somone write a blog on this headline
"One of the City's BEST target killers arrested"....Express Tribune April 28, 2010 Karachi pages.
My views are
Tomorrow we will find the headline
Country's Best Looter
Country's Best Suicide Bomber
City's BEST Car Theft
City's Best "Stupid" Editor.

If Anyone had a little sense of journalism, He or She would have replaced Best with Infamous, Notorious .
Best is appropriate in positive sense like
City's Best Cop
Country's Best Scientist
City's Best Doctor

Only another Killer can say that
City's Best Target Killer arrested...(and with sorrow)...
I don't know ET is with whom?
Target Killers or Victims

Anonymous said...

@ know it all: Why on earth was Rahimullah Yusufzai dragged into this debate? He is more than capable of writing eloquently in English. In fact, a whole generation of Peshawar journalists trained under him will testify to this fact.

Anonymous said...

ET City Pages...on Friday April 30,
Lead story
"NO roti or makan if no kapra, say Sindh's farmers.

Why this story is relevant for me? I am not a farmer.
This story was suitable for front, back or National pages ...
But for Karachi, where 90 percent population working in services sector or running a business.

A very bad choice for City pages.

Anonymous said...

ET - Don't worry. You are the "Best" and your Bacha Jamhoora ABCD staff is the "Best".

You are day ahead of all. So you were correct saying Pakistan match is today.

And tell these "stupid" people your helplessness when there are not enough news to publish on City pages.

Forget all since you are doing "GREAT".

know it all said...

@ Faiza and a couple of anon's above---absolutely the name of the translator should be mentioned. This case notwithstanding, mostly the translators are doing a very good job (though I am against this practice of translation) and should be given credit for it. This is the same problem we have that I pointed out in the plagiarism case---we, as a society, are not trained to give proper attribution to people who deserve it. If you become a big gun---then you must be able to do everything---write in English, write in Urdu, host a show---and God Forbid someone cast aspersion on your multi-faceted abilities.

@another anon above---Rahimullah Yusafzai cannot speak English---if he can write it than that is news to me.

Hafsa said...

SO ET people are replying: I am referring to a reply from an Anonymous using words like Bacha Jamhoora. But very sad the "Best City Editor" is hiding behind this anonymous character....HOW DO I Recognize?
Dearest City Editor it's your known style...Bacha log, Bacha Jamhora... You use these words as if you are frank or funny ....But ...
And Please don't give us excuses like "not enough news"... Read your paper again, two stories qualify for lead...
We pay for the paper so we must be served properly ..... (After all you are the franchise)

And By the way Thank You for educating and inciting our Youth with a headline " How To Make 1.6 million rupees in 10 Minutes"... ...

A Million Dollar Question: Dearest and One of THE Best City Editor...are you a translator or Editor?
If You were editor You would have published a news about No CNG in Sindh, Balochistan. At least a guideline for People since you are quick in giving guidelines like how to make Rs 1.6million in 10 minutes.

Anonymous said...

ET is not a newspaper for CNG users. They should watch TV for such amusing news.

Anonymous said...

Ha-Ha- ET people are douche bags. Who is this best city editor? And who is this magic sports editor. Every child knows when Pakistan's matches are.

Anonymous said...

ET is in teething stage. Soon it will be the best newspaper.

Anonymous said...

Until then it will give lot of interesting blog entries for Cafe Pyala.

Anonymous said...

The post offer him for English columns,He refused on that time because he know his style do not match the English writing .

Can any body tell the real name of Yasir Muhammad Khan of Zarb-E-Momin.

Zeba said...

Haha, very good post. And I'm laughing only because the post title made em totally crack up!

Anonymous said...

Why bolta pakistan is went offair

Anonymous said...

@Know-it-all... having known Rahimullah Yousafzai for almost twenty years, as a fellow journalist, I can say without the slightest doubt that you have never met the man or spoken to him. And since you can't even distinguish the spelling of "then" from "than", it's also clear that you really shouldn't be giving an opinion about anyone else's proficiency in the English language. Twerp.

Anonymous said...

yes im not sure why someone is trying to malign rahimullah. rahimullah speaks english perfectly well. i tell you this as someone who has interviewed him in english several times. it is utterly irresponsible to claim he does not speak english

Anonymous said...

At least Express Tribune is more entertaining than Dawn...not yet upto The News standards...but The News has Ansar the bar is really high.

Daily Times gets honourable mention for occasional 'hawaee firing'

know it all said...

@ anon and anon above--regarding Rahimuallah Yusafzai--did I say I have met him? I haven't and nor am I trying to malign him. I saw him being interviewed on Al-Jazeera English and he could not express himself at all in English. Now, it is possible that he can write and not speak fluently because sometimes I have seen that with Chinese people in the US--they can't speak English well at all but they can write it. Probably Rahimuallah is one of those cases. But this whole conversation just goes to further prove my point that the newspaper editors should make sure they write which column is translated and which isn't---otherwise, those of us who are not journalists will only be left guessing---does Hamid Mir write his own English columns? I don't know. Please tell me because I would like to know. Initially, I thought people like Shahid Masood had commissioned people to write columns for them---because having met him, i know for sure he is not capable of writing his own english column---but then I was told it was translated. The fault here is of the newspapers who keep us guessing and in the dark---it adds to our conspiracy theory culture and then also results in people being wrongly accused.

And btw I realized right after I hit the publish comment button that I had misspelled then---I have no issue admitting my mistakes, but it appears some others here do.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. Even if it was translator's fault, were the op-ed editor and the editor sleeping when the column was brought to them for final approval? or is it that they didn't know who the CJ is? or is that the editor let it go to look op-ed editor bad? whatever the reason was- damn ET- this is an unforgivable blunder.

azeem said...

Rumour has it that ET is trying to finally poach proper journalists from other groups to work out the ongoing drama on their national and op-ed pages.

Anonymous said...

@know it all: don't know which al-jazeera appearance u'r referring to, but i've seen and heard rahimullah sahib numerous times on english language television and radio channels, including the bbc, providing analysis on complex political and social issues in completely coherent and polished english... to say nothing of his mastery of the subject matter and the objectivity he always maintains regardless of his personal opinion. for you to lump him with the likes of hamid mir and shahid masood et al, is at *best* disrespectful, so don't be surprised at being criticized for such egregious comments.

know it all said...

@anonymous--I am not taking issue with your criticism. If Rahimullah is writing his own columns, then you were right to criticize me. But I wish you would also say something about the other issue I pointed out---about how the newspaper needs to let us know otherwise we are left to guesswork. Maybe Rahimullah had a bad day the day I saw him on Al-Jazeera---but he was completely incomprehensible. That is the only time I saw him being interviewed in English so the only chance I had to make up my mind. Btw, I don't find his columns on what is going on in the north as good as Saleem Safi's (who I imagine is being translated from Urdu---correct me if I am wrong). I can never really figure out which position Rahimullah is taking---and again, I am not trying to malign him---I don't know the guy from adam---but this is simply my impression as a reader.

If you are a journalist who has worked with him, you may have a different perspective but you should understand that those of us who simply read the paper and don't know these people personally will judge them on what their columns say or how they come across in interviews. Their newspaper outlets are not doing them any favours by not telling us which piece is translated and which isn't because a lot of people may have been thinking the same as me and won't make the effort to find out by logging on to blogs like Pyala. I hope you can see that.

ansar said...

It's funny how some people are trying to deflect discussion on that insane ET blooper by bringing in subjects such as TV talks and Rahimullah's angrezi.

know it all said...

@ ansar---this is not a deflection but stemmed directly from the subject of translation. It is wholly relevant to the subject under discussion.

amir said...

If I was ET's editor and it had happened under my watch, I'd have resigned at the least.

sahaafi_braadri said...

I wonder why Omar Qureshi, who passes his regal judgement frequently on this blog, doesn't indulge us peasants on this one.

And no. This is one thing you can't get out of by asking why I'm posting anonymously.

ansar said...

lol. ORQ. Where are you...