Harold W. Vadney III is a wannabe translator who lies about his credentials. In August 2007, I exposed him on the now-defunct Network of Independent Linguists’ Discussion Forum. He has now set up a blog devoted to telling lies about me and others. This is my reply. To comment or for further information write to Richard_Benham_AU-StopVadneysLies[at]yahoo.com.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Shock! Horror! Vadney gets a translation assignment!

The Vadney often claims to be a translator, but there is scant evidence of any professional activity. Or rather I found none at all until relatively recently. So one might have begun to suspect that the Vadney was not really a translator after all. Well, just recently, I happened on a sample of his work, and yes, it confirms our suspicions: the Vadney is not a translator at all.

The sample is available for perusal at http://www.alice-in-wonderland.biz/chromolithoshistorical.htm. Those who know German will acknowledge that the text is challenging in places, with its convoluted syntax, archaic use of language and somewhat technical content. But the Vadney is unfazed by all this. In fact, he is so stupid he doesn’t even see the problems, and in any case he stuffs up even simple things.

For example, consider the last sentence:
The colour plates in the Brockhaus Conversation Lexicon, 14th Ed., are generally produced in 12–21 colours for creating an artistic, natural and finely nuanced reproduction.
I am aware that the reader is not necessarily familiar with German; so I shall focus on the English. What, for example, is a “Conversation Lexicon”? Is it a dictionary you consult simultaneously with talking to someone? Clearly, the Vadney has seen the German word Konversations-Lexikon and simply calqued1 it. But in translation, you are not supposed to produce nonsense, unless of course the original happens to be nonsense. So what should the Vadney have done? Well, actually, he had two perfectly defensible options:
  • The German Brockhaus’ Konversations-Lexikon is obviously the name of a reference work, and therefore, as a proper name, could be left untranslated.

  • He could look the word up in a good dictionary. The first choice for serious translators is a monoglot dictionary in the source language, and there is a reasonably good one available on-line, known as DWDS. Here is how DWDS defines Konversationslexikon:
    alphabetisch geordnetes Nachschlagewerk über alle Wissensgebiete
    which can be more or less literally translated as
    alphabetically-arranged reference work dealing with all areas of knowledge.
    In other words, it’s an encyclopædia. So, having consulted the dictionary, the Vadney could have quite legitimately translated Konversations-Lexikon as “encyclopædia”. (Note, too, that there is a big hint in the full title of the work, given on the site referred to: it contains both the word Konversations-Lexikon and the word Encyklopädie. Being able to read is generally a professional advantage for translators.)

Then we could perhaps look at that “for creating an artistic, natural and finely nuanced reproduction”. What we can see here, again without reference to the German, is that this use of for + gerund is wholly unidiomatic in English. (I am not saying it is unidiomatic in all contexts, of course: consider “This axe is for decapitating vexatious litigants” or “Vadney should be imprisoned for using fake credentials”.)

The word “natural” is also wrong as a translation, although you need to know a little German to work that out. The original says originalgetreu, which means “true/faithful to the original”—precisely what the Vadney’s translation is not. The English word “faithful” would be quite adequate here.

Just to answer the common charge that one should not criticize something unless one can do better (actually a contemptible argument2), I consider the German sentence:
Die Chromotafeln in Brockhaus’ Konversations-Lexikon, 14. Aufl., sind zur Erzielung einer künstlerischen, originalgetreuen und fein nuancierten Wiedergabe meist in 12-21 Farben hergestellt.
As is more often than not the case in translation, there is a wide range of options to choose from. Here is one suggestion:
Most colour plates in Brockhaus’s Konversations-Lexikon (Encyclopædia), 14th edition, have been produced in 12-21 colours to achieve an artistic, faithful and finely-nuanced reproduction.
I am the first to acknowledge that this first attempt could be improved, but at least it avoids the beginners’ traps into which the Vadney’s effort falls.

I would invite the reader to check out the rest of the Vadney’s effort. Non-Germanists will probably, through no fault of their own, not understand very much; Germanists may enjoy some of the hilarious misparsings of the original. Here is a random quotation:
Plate 3: Brown is the principle [sic] drawing plate of the image and more strongly delineates off all central parts that produce shadows and foreground elements than the latter, but is omitted entirely in individual light and background elements, because in virtue of the application of the subsequent grey drawing and contours, these elements are replaced.

A couple of days ago, I lambasted the Vadney for misspelling the word archimandrite on a religious forum. Perhaps I was too harsh: perhaps being a sloppy, inconsiderate, semi-literate moron is now the accepted norm on on-line fora. But a paid translation (and the Vadney leaves no room for doubt as to his attitude to unpaid translation3) is another matter: once you accept payment, certain “professional” standards are expected. Let’s face it: the Vadney is too stupid and too ignorant to produce an accurate translation, and at the same time too lazy and too arrogant to spend a few minutes checking readily available references.


1. For the benefit of non-linguists, a calque is a slavish literal translation. As well as being a mistake made by beginner (or incompetent) translators, it is also a possible route of word formation. For example, the French prêt-à-porter is a calque of English ready-to-wear. (Its use as a trendy “loan-word” in English is a lesson in itself!) Other possible examples are English undertaking and German Unternehmen, both based on French entreprise.

2. Suppose, for example, you buy a domestic appliance (say a washer) which, due to a design fault, catches fire, resulting in the destruction of your house and the death of several members of your family. So you sue the manufacturer, whose defence is: “Well, you build a better washer!” Do you consider this an adequate defence? Would you meekly drop your case unless you could meet the manufacturer’s challenge?

3. Consider the following, taken from his “Twanslation Fwauds and Wannabes” blog, as part of an attack on me for (allegedly) translating a piece on apes’ skulls without payment:
Most professional translators do not bastardize their work or the industry as a whole and receive a fee for translating.
Whatever you may think of pro bono translation, all Vadney succeeds in demonstrating, apart from his cupidity, is that he can’t read: what I actually said I had translated free of charge was a section of the Algerian legal code, for the benefit of a charity that tries to reunite abducted children with their parents.

Update: Here is the relevant sentence from my old CV; judge for yourself whether the Vadney read it right:
More unusual jobs have included some scientific descriptions of the skulls of the great apes, and (on a voluntary basis) the Algerian family and nationality codes.
After the Vadney’s petulant outburst, I added to my web-page (which is in serious need of more professional hosting: I pay Yahoo! for my own domain name and an ad-free site, and they persistently fail to deliver!) the explanation:
(unfortunately, Mr Harold William Vadney III’s application to be included in this collection had to be rejected because of the qualification “great”)....
So you can see why he is dirty about it. Imagine missing out like that! I suppose, when it comes to reuniting abducted children with their parents, the Vadney is afraid he’ll be torn away from the tender embraces of Mr Edward J. Hayes III and taken back to the trailer. Well, How-Old, you may never have grown up, but the legal definition of “child” is purely in terms of chronological age.

No comments:

About Me

I am a professional translator in the combinations French>English and German>English. I hold qualifications from the University of Adelaide (BA, DipCompSc), the Australian National University (LittB), the University of Geneva (Certificat de spécialisation en linguistique), and the the UK-based Institute of Linguists (Diploma in Translation for both my language combinations). I am an implacable opponent of bullshit in all its forms.