Home » Nepali Translation Fiasco: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Nepali Translation Fiasco: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Today I am going to analyze a small document published in the US CDC multilingual portal. The two-page document intends to make people wary about COVID 19 and what one can do if they are sick with it.

In the first paragraph of the first page, the document lists out the things that need to be done to prevent the spread of the COVID while the second paragraph instructs the readers to follow the given steps if they feel sick. The first page ends with the isolation protocol.

The first paragraph of the second page instructs the readers not to share personal items. The following paragraphs urge how one has to monitor their symptoms and when to seek medical attention.

Although this is a small document (it hardly has 300 words), a very important message is being delivered via this document. But has the message been delivered correctly?

 

It seems it has not been. I will tell you why. At the meantime, you might want to see the following marked pictures.

The most significant error in the Nepali translation of this document is the omission of an entire paragraph. The provided Nepali translation does not contain the following information:

  • Most people with COVID have mild illness and can recover at home.
  • Get rest and stay hydrated.
  • Call before you get medical care.

This is a faux pas, isn’t it? But there are even more errors. There are at least 25 errors and some of them very serious. 25 errors in a 300 words document! It is quite unnatural.

“Cover your coughs and sneezes” has been translated as “खोक्दा र हाच्छिउँ गर्दा छोप्नुहोस्”. This translation does not have an object and we are not sure what we are being asked to cover. Similarly, ‘share’ in ‘do not share personal household items’ has been translated as ‘साझा गर्नु’. However, we do not have any word like ‘साझा गर्नु’ in our dictionaries. The translator probably meant to say “आफ्ना व्यक्तिगत सामग्री अरूलाई प्रयोग गर्न नदिनुहोस् (do not allow others to use your personal items)”, which would be clearer and legible for Nepali audiences. Another major issue should be that a strange phrase (अन्य श्वासप्रश्वासको कमी हुने) has been used. It flew right over my head. All Nepali speakers would feel the same. Let us look at another awkward expression: छाती दुख्ने वा चाप हुने. I do not know how छाती and चाप would go together and what they mean with this combination. What I find most funny about this translation is that the probably expert Nepali translator translates ‘operator’ as ‘सञ्चालक (back-translation: a business runner).’ See the fun!

Other errors:

  • धोई राख्नुहोस् (BT- wash your hands and keep them)
  • गर्दा बाहेक (they should be one word as per Nepali grammar)
  • ‘specific’ translated as ‘special (विशिष्ट)’
  • Unnecessary commas used.
  • खाने भाँडा (the intention might have been: थाल बटुका)
  • ‘Towel’ transliterated while translation expected for it.

Please see the markings on the above pictures for yourself for all errors.

Verdict: I think we have lost the message in this translation. So, I can probably call this a wastage of resources. I would not mark it above 2 out of 10.

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