Oct 25 2011

English idiosyncrasies and idioms

Note: CFCA does not in any way promote one language over another. We respect all cultures. This post merely acknowledges the difficulties people face when translating words and phrases into another language.

English can present difficulties for people who haven’t grown up with all its idioms and idiosyncrasies. Yet it’s increasingly the international language of business.

If you write to your sponsored friend in English, you’re helping your friend learn a language that will almost certainly help in a future career.

We’ve blogged before about foreign phrases that don’t compute in English. Here are some more we’ve overheard in the last few weeks:

  • Cow play

Staff members from one of our projects in Africa wrote that one of the children awaiting sponsorship liked to play “like a cow with friends.”

Further research clarified that he liked to play “cowboys with friends.”

  • “Yearly stroll”

On a recent mission awareness trip to one of our countries in South America, travelers were invited in a booklet to take a “yearly stroll” through our project.

After seeing one sponsor staring at the booklet without comprehension, a CFCA translator asked, “What does ‘yearly stroll’ mean?”

The sponsor had no idea either.

  • Sun blockader

In the U.S. it’s called sunscreen; in Europe, it’s called sunblock.

We’d never heard it called “sun blockader,” though, until an email from one of our projects showed up at our headquarters in Kansas City!

0 thoughts on “English idiosyncrasies and idioms”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It is amazing the work being done by so many CFCA translators around the world. They do the best they can to offer a quality translation eventhough, most of them, have never been in an English speaking country. We also thank our dear sponsors for embracing the language differences, you are AWESOME. So next time you read, “My house is made out of wood walls, metal roof and earth floor”, laugh as much as you can and then try to figure it out! May God bless you all.

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