Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Harley Davidson in Arabic

So a friend asked me to help a friend who needed someone to look at slides in Arabic and see if the font displayed correctly/the translation was okay, etc.  I said sure I could look at them.  As it turns out, they were slides to train motorcycle club officers, and thus I have now learned a lot of terminology (in English and Arabic) about organizing motorcycle rides.

I'm not sure exactly who this is being distributed to, but it raises interesting sociolinguistic issues.  The English presentation was very informal and full of slang.  The Arabic presentation was in full-blown Modern Standard Arabic, which is definitely not the language of motorcycle clubs (which I'd imagine is actually English in most places, at least for motorcycle related things).  So the words made sense, at least when the translator hadn't tried to literally translate English slang, but . . .

I was also thoroughly unimpressed with the translator's grammar, which required considerable correcting. Then again, the people who attend this training are probably not spending a lot of time sitting around making sure ism and khabr kaana are in the correct cases.

Then there were the instructions about respecting the lanes on the highways, and not passing out of turn.  All I can say is if you're riding in an Arab country--hah! Don't you know that your motorcycle is supposed to go wherever it fits with an inch to spare?

I'd imagine that this presentation is going to the Gulf, as that's the only place I can imagine that would have people rich enough to buy Harleys that don't speak English at a high level.  From a linguistic and cultural standpoint, it would definitely be fascinating to watch this presentation in real life.

1 comment:

  1. Somehow, I think there is great material for an SNL skit there.

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