By Adriana Adarve – Owner of Adarve Translations & Donnamarie Leemann – Head of Marketing at Adarve Translations
We have discussed language, translation, communication and information on these pages. This time we want to explore propaganda (as defined in Webster’s):
Propaganda, noun [Latin, gerundive of propagare, to propagate]
- In the Roman Catholic Church, a committee of cardinals, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, in charge of the foreign missions.
- Any organization or movement working for the propagation of particular ideas, doctrines, practices, etc.
- The ideas, doctrines, practices, etc., spread in this way
- Any systematic, widespread, deliberate indoctrination or plan for such indoctrination: now often used in a derogatory sense, connoting deception or distortion.
Propaganda is not my area of expertise, though I do admit to having worked in marketing and advertising, which might be described as propaganda’s commercial aspect, as opposed to its original ecclesiastical or more modern political aspects.
Propaganda and Translation can be considered to be diametrically opposed in intent. Propaganda is an exercise in what is now often called “spin.” It takes facts and reworks them to support an irreal version of the real world. Translation is an attempt to transfer words and ideas in one language into (as nearly exactly as possible) equivalent words and ideas in a different language. “Spin” is anathema to a qualified, impartial translator.
Adarve Translations specializes in technical, medical, bureaucratic and other fact-based facets of the art of translation. I use the word “art” advisedly. Language is a very slippery thing, and translation is more slippery still. Dictionary definitions differ wildly. The ability to speak and understand many different languages does not necessarily confer upon the speaker the ability to move seamlessly, correctly, between languages.
It takes an extra fillip, an extra quotient of compassion, understanding and comprehension, to be up to the job of being able to correctly and accurately transmit complex ideas and meanings from one language—and culture, society, historical perspective, religious orientation, commercial perspective, et al—into another context.
Paying Adarve Translations’ fee for changing a document or a recording from one language to another will not result in any “spin,” even if it’s spin that you want (there are other bureaus who will gladly provide you with that service).
Adarve Translations will correctly and accurately change documents and recordings that are presented to it in one language into another language. No tricks, no blurring of meaning, no spin, no deviation of the purport of the original document or recording.
Propaganda is rampant in our modern world. The propaganda of the Russian government regarding its adventures in the Ukraine. The propaganda of the Chinese government trying to explain its reneging on its promises of “One government, two systems” regarding democracy in Hong Kong. The propaganda regarding the dysfunctional dichotomy that obtains in the current U.S. government.
There is also the all-pervasive element of commercial propaganda. People are inundated with advertisements—in the mail, on the telephone, on traditional and on social media. Unless you flee to some isolated mountain fastness to contemplate your navel, it is impossible to escape the onslaught of commercial propaganda.
There is a weapon against the onslaught of propaganda, whatever its form, however it manifests itself. That weapon is the fact-based evaluation of information received. Purveyors of propaganda can say anything they please. The facts of what they please to say can be checked. Statements can be verified as fact; they can also be dismissed as having no merit.
The Adarve Translations bureau is seldom called upon to engage in propaganda. Our reputation for correct and impartial translations precludes most such requests. Nevertheless, we are aware that many translators do not share our commitment or our integrity.
These other bureaus cost less than we do and will present any position a client asks them to take. Adarve Translations does not mess with propaganda. We provide correct, quality translations that take into account the commercial, professional, bureaucratic and/or personal needs of our clients.
All this highfalutin language. Adarve Translations gives the Dirty Low Down (we love pop music references!) or the correct, exact change from words and meanings in one language into words and meanings in another language.
We can and will take the words and meanings that you write or record and transfer them into words and meanings in another language: directly, correctly, without spin and with no element of propaganda.
By the way, Adriana is innocent of propaganda or marketing ploys. She has a Masters degree in chemistry, is trilingual but doesn’t know beans about marketing. I have a guilty knowledge of both propaganda and marketing, having worked in the field for many years before I moved to Switzerland.
Being adept at sales and marketing doesn’t necessarily mean that one has no morals or integrity—though it often does mean exactly that. It is important to take each case on its own merits, in the same way one takes each translation assignment on its own merits.
The concept of propaganda is much wider than the prevue of Adarve Translations. Propaganda is an international evil that filters down to all levels and interactions of society. Propaganda puts on spin and twists truths both local and international.
And yet, it is easy to stop propaganda in its tracks. The truth is out there. It isn’t all that hard to side-step the seductiveness of irrealité in favor of the real world. Facts can be quantified. Their veracity can be checked. Anyone who attempts to interfere with that verification (as with the Russians interfering with the investigation of the downing of the Malaysian airline over the Ukraine a few months ago) can be assumed to be engaged in propaganda—or worse.
Is there any veracity in the plethora of modern conspiracy theories? One can posit any theory one likes, but proof is necessary. Proof is lacking in virtually all modern conspiracy theories. The propagation of such theories amounts to conjecture, often spurious conjecture. The propagation of such theories amounts to propaganda. It is important to note who is promulgating spurious theories, and to what end.
Propaganda is taking a grain of truth and inflating it to zeppelinesque dimensions. It is a very interesting exercise in reality to take a piece of propaganda in one language and to try to render it, correctly and impartially, into another language.
Such translations do not usually work, in that a correct translation takes a real-world document or recording and turns it into a document or recording in another language that also reflects reality. Where there is a propaganda element there can be no direct translation, the exchange is skewed in direct relation to the amount of propaganda inherent in the document to be translated.
Not all translations take place between two languages. We at Adarve Translations often wish we could translate the political-speak, commercial-speak and cultural-speak that daily takes place in American media and political discourse in so-called “Plain English.” Much of such speech is intended to obscure meaning instead of to reveal meaning. Much of such speech is intended to create conflict instead of furthering understanding. While not all of such speech can be considered to be “propaganda,” it, like propaganda, takes leave of the real world of fact-based discourse and indulges itself in irreal renderings of the real world.
Word for word, fact by fact, idea by idea, concept by concept, correct context by correct context, Adarve Translations translates and correctly transfers words and ideas from one language and from one perspective into another—or several others.
There is no wobbling, no skewed values, no side-ways takes on reality. We do not incorporate spin or propaganda or subjectivity. We are proud that we do not.
All the best,
Donnamarie Leemann, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, & Adriana Adarve, Asheville, NC
About the Authors: Adriana Adarve is the owner of Adarve Translations and is fluent in three languages (English, Spanish & French), as well as pluri-cultural, multi-cultural, plurilingual and multilingual. Donnamarie Leemann is an artist and writer who has for many years contributed to the BBC and to many other public forums, and who collaborates at present with Adarve Translations as Head of Marketing.