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Nepali Translation Fiasco: The Austin Independent School District

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The Austin Independent School District sent a letter to Nepali parents on January 11, 2021, informing them about the school district’s decision to go into remote instructions. Reading the Nepali document (I tried finding the source, but could not find it), you understand that this decision is being taken to stop the spread of COVID.

The document seems to urge that the school district will remain open for only those with special needs. The document also informs the guardians and parents about drive-through covid tests and urges the people to register for it.

The document goes on to tell us that there will be provision for foods for seven days and busses with Wi-Fi. The document ends by thanking the parents.

But has the message been delivered correctly?

I notice more than 30 errors in the one-page document.

Here is the analysis:

There are six grammar errors, violating the splitting rules in Nepali (रहनेछन् in the second paragraph, गर्नेछ in the fourth paragraph, राख्नेछ in the fifth and sixth paragraph,  रहनेछ in the sixth paragraph and राख्नेछौँ in 8th paragraph. The correct version would be रहने छन्, गर्ने छ, राख्ने छ, रहने छ, राख्ने छौँ.

At the same time, there has been meaning errors because of wrong word order समग्र क्षेत्रमा बन्देजहरू अझ कडा गर्नु would sound better if it were बन्देजहरू समग्र क्षेत्रमा अझ कडा गर्नु. It looks “restrictions” has been wrongly translated as ‘बन्देजहरू (bondage)’. Likewise, हाम्रा व्यक्तिगत रूपमा उपिस्थत हुनुपर्ने सेवाहरूमाथि (the services which should be personally present) would mean ‘the services for which one should be personally present) had it been हाम्रा व्यक्तिगत रूपमा उपिस्थत हुनुपर्ने सेवाहरूमाथि.

I give a brief of the errors seen below:

  • wrong tense has been used ‘निर्णय… गरिएको थियो (second paragraph). The tense there could not have been past perfect given the context.
  • Wrong terms have been used. पहुँच, टाढैबाट पढ्न
  • Hindi words (the words that are not used in Nepal) have been used (समझ, लचकता,
  • Wrong spellings (तपाइँ, प्रदानत)

There are several other errors (see the photo above) in the document. But the most ludicrous of them would be the translation of ‘remote instructions’, which has been translated as ‘रिमोट निर्देशन (remote directions), translation of ‘spread as ‘publicity प्रसार’  and non-translation of ‘drive-through’, which has been transliterated instead, resulting in the loss of meaning and fluency.

In short, this is a very poor piece of translation. It requires retranslation if we want the Nepali audience to understand the message correctly.

Verdict: This translation would get 2 marks out of 10, I am afraid.

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