Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Assorted Protector Pads/Tampons protecteurs assortis

Picked up a US package of assorted pads (transparent, rubber, felt, etc) in a store the other day and noticed the somewhat strange French translation:

Pads are ideal for mounting on the bottom of objects that sit (1) on desks and tabletops. They also help prevent slipping and sliding of objects on smooth (2) surfaces.

The French reads as follows:

Les coussinets sont excellents sous les objets qui s'assoient sur les bureaux et les dessus de table. Ils aident en plus à prévenir le glissement des objets sur les surfaces douces.

What the author meant by sit is probably « objects that rest « on desks. Inanimate things to do not sit anywhere. This may be considered colloquial but it certainly has no place in informational copy on a package. The French ends up by saying object that take a seat on desks (??).

One method a translator may use to determine the exact meaning of a word is to replace it by its antonym (i.e. opposite) to see if the meaning is completely changed. The opposite of smooth in this case is rough, bumpy. Unfortunately, the word doux (douces in feminine plural) actually means sweet, soft, mild, gentle, pleasant but not the opposite of rough. It is the word “lisse” that is the right word (it could also be used in the expression bald tires – pneus lisses).

Why small mistakes are such a big deal? They compromise the seller’s credibility. The customer may think that the error happened because the seller DOES NOT CARE! He will therefore look elsewhere when buying another product from that same producer.

That’s not customer retention!

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