A journalist’s job can be most damning when the information in his hands has been availed to him in one language when his audience needs to be addressed in a totally different language.
Yes, translation can kill you! Well, maybe I am exaggerating, but for sure, translations kill stories more often than not.
In Bongo where most of our sources provide us with information expressed in Kiswahili, you need to have a superbly good brain of a translator/interpreter if you happen to be working for an English media outlet. To you, my heartfelt word is: pole sana. Now look at what the scribbler writing for the tabloid that is closely associated with this columnist (Sat, June 5 edition), purports to inform readers through his story that appears on Pages 1-2, entitled, ‘Arusha stands still as Sabaya, five co-accused appear in court’. He reports:
“It was DEMANDED before the court that…Mr Sabaya was accused (sic !) of soliciting Sh90 million BRIBES from Mr Francis Mrosso in favour (sic!) of tax evasion claims he was facing.”
It was demanded before the court? Oh, nope! However, since I understand Kiswahili, I will vouch that our colleague had in mind the expression, “ILIDAIWA mahakamani…”, for dai happens to mean, among other things, “demand” in Kiswahili. Dai also means CLAIM.
Which is to say, our colleague should have written, “It was CLAIMED (not demanded) before the court…”
And then, saying “Sh90 million bribes” sounds ludicrous. I aver it should simply be “Sh90 million BRIBE…”
On Page 4 of Bongo’s senior-most broadsheet, there is this story: ‘Children call for speed limit lowering’. Therein, the scribbler, purporting to quote what a pupil said in connection with Global Safety Week, he wrote:
“Most schools in urban areas are located in busy business locations, others near PUBLIC highways…” My concern is, if you talk of public highways, it means we can also speak about PRIVATE highways! That, of course, would be nonsensical.
In the last paragraph of his story, the scribbler wrote: “Earlier, Ms Rukia Gwanda, who is an academic officer…said the move by the Automobile Association of Tanzania(AAT)…to RISE an alarm on speed reduction was a good idea…”
Raise an alarm? Nope! What the AAT did was RAISE THE alarm (not an alarm). The expression “raise the alarm” means to make people understand the danger of something. Yes, like in the case of our colleague’s story whereby the alarm is raised over the danger of speeding to (especially) school children.
On the same day (Sat, June 5), Bongo’s huge and colourful broadsheet ran a story on Page 3 with the headline, ‘Govt, BMW Foundation dispatch 2,946 health staff to rural areas’, in which the scribbler wrote in Para 5, purporting to quote a government official:
“This figures (sic!) of STAFFS come at a right (sic!) when the government is struggling to improve services…”
The problem here starts with the headline. Why, it is faulty to talk about a specific number and refer to the same as staff—2,946 health staff. It is okay, however, to say a staff of 2,946, when you have an organisation that has 2,946 employees.
Why, the noun “staff” refers to ALL WORKERS considered as a group, employed in an (ONE) organisation. Saying 2,946 staff is wrong!
And then, Daniel Mwasandube, an esteemed Citizen reader, WhatsApped to draw my attention to a Tuesday, June 8 story on Page 2 of Bongo’s senior-most broadsheet, entitled: ‘Govt: Don’t expel students over school contributions’. In this one, the scribbler wrote in his intro:
“The government has said NO ANY pupil should be sent back home because of unnecessary contributions…”
In Para 5 we read a purported quotation: “The Honourable minister is ready to tell this House that free basic education had NO ANY fee…”
In both cases that I have capitalised, the expression should simply be “NO” (instead of “no any”).
Ah, this treacherous language called English!