Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Security Council voting to approve a 12,600-strong UN peacekeeping operation to take over from the African-led mission in Mali on 1 July 2013. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
OK, that's the "United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission" in "simplified Chinese," as determined by Google Translate.  If you translate that back into English, it is exactly the same as the starting English gibberish, which makes me wonder about Google Translate.  How can you translate English bureauspeak into Mandarin and get exactly the same translation back?  Has Google Translate insinuated itself into the United Nations, American machine translation not mediated by a human translator sensitive to the subtleties of two languages?  Is it also vulnerable to manipulation by American national security state, uh, "agencies"?  Am I paranoid?

It's no better in French: "la Mission multidimensionnelle intégrée des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation au Mali (MINUSMA)" - the same bureaucratic mind is at work.

It's hard to say about the Chinese.  The closest I could come in the official UN translation is:


And Google translates that as:

"Multidimensional United Nations Stabilization Mission in"

I used a different online translation as:

"UN multi-level synthesis stable group" which isn't bad as a rough translation of the original.

It's terrible in all three languages.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.

George Orwell
Politics and the English Language