When Italian Fresh Pasta is Mistranslated to “Fresh Paste”

It takes true genius to commit two mistakes in a single sign. This can only be explained by sloppy and lazy translating. “Alimente per intolleranze” directly translates to “food intolerance,” with the same implication as “lactose intolerance.” What the sign may have been referring to, however, was food allergies. The stroke of genius is when “pasta fresco” is translated to “fresh paste.”

It is possible that the translator still tried to translate “pasta” into English. He may not have known that it is also “pasta” in English. Forcing the issue, the translator would come up with “paste” since it sounds the same, and has the same etymological roots.

The sign above is a microcosm of what translation is all about. There is the translation of the words, and there is the restraint not to use literal translations or guesses based on etymology. A translator would know when to push the matter. He would also know when a word which has the same meaning and usage in different languages exists. Modern languages heavily borrow from other languages. The Japanese are a prime example. They have been using words which have been transliterated from English. Words like “hankachi” for handkerchief have been accepted as part of the language.

Another thing that a student learns while studying a language is that there are usually single-word equivalents for words and concepts which do not exist in one language. English is as guilty as the next language for not having a word exist in another language. For instance, there might not be a single word for “allergy” in Italian.

The use of foreign words and phrases is expected to increase as the world shrinks due to more affordable travel, and communication via the Internet. Learning a second language, or even a third, will become more necessary in the coming years.

Image credit – via Pinterest

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