Blowing the nation’s trumpet is all very well, but sometimes the message sent out to foreign audiences is a bit too rosy.

When the Labour Government came to power in 1997, I was working in the Social Affairs section of the British Embassy in Rome. One of our jobs was to send out press releases announcing the new government’s Welfare-to-Work policies. The Embassy’s English>Italian translator mis-read, and mis-translated, “Welfare-to-Work” as “Benessere al lavoro”.

Thus crediting the government with new policies promoting Well-Being in Work. An admirable aspiration, but not quite what they had in mind.

By Marian Dougan

2 Responses to “Blowing the nation’s trumpet: languages and diplomacy (2)”  

  1. 1 Cordelia Ditton (@DillyTalk)

    Love it!

    Have you heard the probably apocryphal story of the Chinese translator who changed a senior British civil servant from ‘Permanent Secretary’ to ‘Everlasting Typist’?


  2. 2 wordstogoodeffect

    No, I hadn’t heard that one – sounds like something from “Yes Minister”! (I hope the Permanent Sec had a sense of humour!)

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