No hope in Esperanza. Cabral does not translate!

MANILA (14 June) - Because of a Tagalog translation in an Administrative Order of the Department of Health, the values of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fruit juices, oils and phytochemical food and health supplements are in danger of being deleted from the vocabulary of Filipinos chasing after alternative lifestyles along with alternative medicines. Because of the Secretary of Health, the health of the Tagalog (Filipino) language may be forever jeopardized! I'm only half-joking - read my lips: JEOPARDIZED. Can you translate that in Tagalog?

Despite the obvious lack of substance of Tagalog in matters of translation from English, respected nonconformist columnist Cito Beltran praises the DoH translation and shouts Hallelujah to the Chief, "All hail (Esperanza) Cabral!" ("Results rather than regrets," 28 May, philstar.com). I did not come to bury Cabral but to praise her.

Pardon me? Cito, as far as I can see, your Dear Secretary of Health Ms Cabral either doesn't know how to translate English to Tagalog very well, or simply signs the final draft of an Administrative Order with a Tagalog translation that comes to her desk, having complete trust in her staff. I have complete trust that Ms Esperanza Cabral will learn her lesson from now on.

Reminds me: That's the problem with those ultra-nationalists who insist on Tagalog (the language of Manila) as the effective national language and consider the use of English as colonial mentality. You can't use properly what you properly dismiss as contrary to your mentality. Translation: You can't translate in the language you hate.

And who am I to say that? I'm not Tagalog; I'm FBI, full-blooded Ilocano, my grandparents having come from Rosario, La Union. I fell in love with the English language in Grade 1 yet; that was in 1947. "I run to the door!' each pupil would say and just do it. I was good at it right from the start. That young, I was already a reader. I an Ilocano am glad to have colonial mentality! At least I know how to translate proper English into proper Tagalog - and proper Ilocano. Just watch me. You can't take that away from me. And in The Age of Knowledge and the Information Communication Revolution, English is The Universal Language, baby! English is our comparative advantage over many Asian countries, but we insist on the language of Manila as the dominant tongue and so we struggle with English as the dominant brain. Translation: Frailty, thy name is Tagalog.

The Americans have always been our teachers, starting with the Thomasites in the last millennium. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was passed unanimously by the US Congress in 1994 to ensure standardized quality (Vanessa A Doctor, undated, ezinearticles.com). One of the requirements is that the phrase "No Approved Therapeutic Claims" be prominently displayed on the label of the herbal or dietary supplement. We got that from the Americans; we are copycats of the Americans, whether we are anti-Americans or not.

Sheila Crisostomo reports that Ms Cabral is "unfazed by the graft case filed against her before the Office of the Ombudsman by a group of manufacturers of herbal and dietary products over the translation of a warning sign on product packages" (28 May 2010, philstar.com). Ms Cabral said:

I'm not bothered. All we did was translate it from English to Filipino so that it can be understood by most Filipinos. Why don't they want the public to understand? Does it mean that they are thriving on deceit?

The DoH Administrative Order was issued 18 March (Crisostomo as cited). Violators face imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of not less than PhP500,000 or about US$10,800. Understandably incensed, the Chamber of Herbal Industries in the Philippines Inc has filed a complaint, claiming that the DoH AO "had caused the industry some PhP47.4 million in damages and injury in the form of cancelled advertisements and wasted advertising and promotional materials, excluding losses in sales." Translation: The AO is bad for our health.

Crisostomo reported that "the DoH had decided to have the warning translated after realizing that a majority of Filipinos do not understand the English version." I Frank H am bothered not because they probably didn't really ask those majority of Filipinos but because not only in this translation is something lost, but it's not a translation at all but a reinterpretation, error compounding error:

DoH Original -
"No Approved Therapeutic Claims"

DoH "New Translation" -
"Mahalagang Paalaala: Ang (name of product) Ay Hindi Gamot at Hindi Dapat Gamiting Panggamot sa Anumang Uri ng Sakit."

Note that the original of 4 words becomes a translation of 19 words (including "name of product"). Where in the world?! That tells me of 3 things:

(1) Either that Tagalog (Filipino) lacks vocabulary.

Assuming the DoH translation to be correct, this tells me that Tagalog is so deficient in vocabulary you can't really translate but, instead, explain what you are supposed to translate.

In fact, in college more than 40 years ago, I already sensed that Tagalog was inferior in vocabulary when I noticed that the Tagalog translations of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo from the English translations were poor, to say the least. They didn't capture the genius of Rizal, his humor and his insights. Rizal's original Spanish of course reflected the Spain of the 19th century, compared to which the Philippines was a backward country in language and culture. Even today, Tagalog (Filipino) cannot but be deficient more and more because it refuses to adopt words from English even as knowledge grows more and more in English. Translation: Already outdated, Tagalog insists on being left behind further and further.

(2) Or DoH translators don't know what they're saying.

Dealing with "No Approved Therapeutic Claims," the DoH translators failed to translate the word "No" and the word "Approved" and the word "Therapeutic" and the word "Claims." Something is lost in the translation, I know, but this is too much: 100% lost in the translation! Robert Frost said, "The poem is what gets lost in the translation." In the DoH case, I say, "The original is what gets lost in the translation."

(3) Or that the DoH has a hidden agenda.

If there is a hidden agenda, then I don't know what it is.

In any case, to see how bad the translation is that it is not a translation at all, consider this:

The proper translation of "No Approved Therapeutic Claims" is this:
Tagalog: "Walang Aprobadong Pahayag Na Nagpapagaling"
Retranslated: "No Approved Statement That It Can Heal"
Ilocano: "Awan Ti Aprobado A Pacdaar Nga Macapag-Paimbag"
Retranslated: "No Approved Declaration That It Can Heal"

The DoH should have asked the language experts first!

"No Approved Therapeutic Claims" translated by DoH (with the name of a real dietary fruit juice I myself drink) would be this:
"Mahalagang Paalaala: Ang ‘PhilNONI Dietary Supplement’ Ay Hindi Gamot at
Hindi Dapat Gamiting Panggamot sa Anumang Uri ng Sakit"
and that is the worst translation I have ever seen from English to Filipino - that is, setting aside the translation from English by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, like, "salumpuwit" (catch your ass - for chair) and "tatsulok" (3 corners - for pyramid).

"Mahalagang Paalaala: Ang ‘PhilNONI Dietary Supplement’ Ay Hindi Gamot At Hindi Dapat Gamiting Panggamot Sa Anumang Uri Ng Sakit"
retranslated means
"Important Reminder: This ‘PhilNONI Dietary Supplement’ Is Not Medicine And Should Not Be Used As Treatment For Any Disease" -
and it is clear that it is not by any stretch of the imagination a proper translation of
"No Approved Therapeutic Claims" -
it is in fact entirely changing the meaning of the original. If this is not a deliberate mistranslation, which is thriving on deceit, then those who translated the English original, shouldn't they be dismissed from their jobs for ignorance? Ignorance of the law of translation excuses no one, for not everyone knows the law, but 'tis an excuse everyone will plead and no one will be able to confute him.

Translation: The hell with bad translations!

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