News broadcasts that cover a foreign subject often translate (or at least explain) the terms that occur in their news items; this is true for American economical term “fiscal cliff” which is a current buzz word in the context of the global recession. So what happens to these buzzwords around the globe? Do they get lost in translation?
When terminology goes global it’s always fascinating to see what happens to it when adopted by other languages and countries. The process gives a great insight into the concepts of culture and politics in language. Do you go through a literal translation or do you go creative? Or do you invent something completely local?
The Guardian’s Heidi Moore asked Twitter users about the translation of the term in their country. The outcome? Most countries do not talk about a cliff, but an ‘abyss!’ Here are some of her findings….
One of the countries that gets rid of the fairly innocent cliff and opts for the much more scary abyss is Italy. The term that is often used there is ‘abisso fiscale.’
Montenegro, Serbia and Croatia
Here, the term fiscal cliff is translated pretty literal: ‘fiskalna litica,’ which can be translated as fiscal cliff, bluff, crag, precipe or rock. However, a translation of the term abyss can also found in the languages spoken in these countries. When this is the case, the term ‘fiskalna litica’ (fiscal abyss) is used.
As usual, the France have tried to avoid using the English term and have come up with an equivalent in their own language. This has resulted in two options that the French media can use: ‘mur de la dette,’ which can be translated as debt wall, or ‘mur budgétaire,’ budgetary wall. However, there is a new generation of French speakers who does not mind English terms, which has resulted in another translation: the very literal ‘le fiscal cliff’ is used in France as well.
Given the fact that the English and German language share the same ancestor, it’s no surprise the German translations is quite similar to the original. The Germans use ‘Fiskalklippe,’ a literal translation of fiscal cliff. Another term that is widely used is ‘Sparbombe.’ A bomb instead of a cliff? Those Germans really know how to scare people!
The Dutch have found quite a few ways to convey the English term in their own language. They speak of the ‘belastingkloof’ (‘belasting’ = tax, ‘kloof’ = cliff), or ‘begrotingsravijn’ or ‘begrotingsafgrond’ (budget crevice or abyss). Furthermore, they also use the term ‘fiscale kloof,’ a literal translation of fiscal cliff.
The Danish have a great sense for drama; their term, ‘Afgrundens rand,’ more or less translates to edge of the abyss. However, the terms ‘Økonomisk afgrund,’ (economical crevice) ‘Finansielle afgrund’ (financial crevice) and simply ‘Afgrunden’ (crevices) are also used.
The bad news about the American economy has even travelled to countries as far away as Indonesia. Here, the term is translated as ‘jurang fiscal,’ which can be translated as fiscal abyss.
In South America, the term fiscal abyss is widespread as well. In Argetina, for example, the Spanish translation for the English term is ‘abismo fiscal.’
Turkey, on the other hand, has a completely different approach. Instead of focusing on the cliff that lies ahead, the Turkish translation of the term heads straight to the consequences of this sticky situation: their translation is ‘mali uçurum,’ or capital flight.
The Norwegian newspapers do not talk of a fiscal cliff, but of a ‘budsjettstupet,’ a literal translation of budget ravine. However, one Twitter user stated that the term fiscal cliff isn’t used at all, as news broadcasts consider the term too complicated for their viewers.
One of Norway’s neighbours also uses a translation of the term ravine. According to a Twitter user, Swedish TV shows and newspapers employ the term ‘finansiella stupet’ (financial ravine). When Moore looked at a number of Swedish business stories, it became clear that the word ‘budgetstupet’ (budget ravine) was actually used more often. This term was often followed by the English term in parentheticals.
The Thai don’t make matters more complicated than they already are; they use the term ‘หน้าผาทางการคลัง,’ (pronounced as Nah-pah-tarng-karn-klang), a literal translation of fiscal cliff.
The Portuguese use the term ‘penhasco fiscal.’ Again, this is a straightforward, literal translation of the term fiscal cliff.
There aren’t that many people that speak the language anymore (except for high school students of course), but if you would like to say fiscal cliff in Pig Latin, it would be ‘iscalfay iffclay.’
The Irish have also found a beautiful equivalent of the American term. According to one tweet, the Irish translation of the term is ‘You think that is a fiscal cliff, you should see what we went over in 2008.’
Although they share their language with the American people, even the English have come up with their own translation for fiscal cliff. Apparently, the English translation is ‘WTF are those idiots in the US doing now.’ Well, at least it clearly ventilates their opinion about the Americans!