I have always been fascinated by ‘lost-in-translation’ incidents. I think more than any other language Yoruba in its idiomatic purity lends itself to this. We (Yoruba and pseudo-Yoruba people) have all heard ‘the soup is dancing’ and ‘there are 3 bottoms with which to pollute.’ I decided to take it to a higher level by writing a whole passage filled with such examples. To make it more interesting I added some words from my own dialect. The first passage is the direct translation and the second how it is supposed to be. the third is the original Yoruba. Try and figure out what the first one is before you read the second or third. If you don’t speak Yoruba, don’t let that stop you. I hope you have as much fun reading as I had writing.
Passage 1 (directly translated from Yoruba to English)
As you have heard before I am a take talk to talk. One time I did work with under the head of a establish on the ground take talk to talk in his house of work of take talk to talks. There I met one body of a man. He took us to work. looking at his road vehicle and his taking of body, we can see that he was one who likes eating the life of his head. After plenty words, he took me to understand that his father kicked the calico some years done little and his mother went to the town of the elders not too long ago. So he became the child of Orukan. I saw that he had been looking at me take-job, take-job, so I took my work and go. But he did not put his body on the ground and when time became fast our eyes became four. He said he had my love, but I took him to understand that I had a love on the way. His eyes mixed up and his arms fell off. My boss sent a message to call out, so I told the guy that the day is going. He head went dry, but he said he was bringing a bird from his pocket. This time I thought his talk was plenty so I took my soul off him. He said he will come when time becomes and I told him in lines to look at the ground.
As you may know, I am a lawyer. I once worked with a principal lawyer in his law firm. I met a young man there. He was a client. From his care and his dress sense you could see that he was a person who enjoyed the good life. After some conversation with him, I learnt that his father died a long time ago and his mother not too long ago, which made him an orphan. He had been looking at me surreptitiously so I decided to get back to my work. But he was not discouraged and after some time our eyes met across the office. He told me he liked me, but I told him I was engaged. That burst his bubble and he became dejected. My boss sent someone to call me so I told the guy I had to get back to work. He became angry and told me he will strive harder to win my affections. I realised he was just full of bluster so I ignored him. He told me he would try and come back later, and I replied sarcastically that he would be welcome.
Boya e ti gbo ri pe agbejoro ni mi. Ni igba kan mo s’ise l’abe oludasile ile ise agbejoro nla kan. Ni ibe ni mo ti pade ara kunrin kan. O gba wa s’ise ni. Ti e ba wo oko oju ona re, ati imura re. E ma ri wipe o je eni ti o gbadun lati ma j’aye ori re. Leyin opolopo oro, O fi ye mi pe, baba re ti ta teru nipa o ti se die, iya sese lo si ilu awon agba ko ti pe rara. Ni arakunrin yii di omo orukan. Mo ri wipe oun wo mi muse muse, emi ba nba ise mi lo. Sugbon ko fi ara le rara. Igba to ya, oju wa se merin. O ni oun nife mi, emi ba fi ye wipe, mo ni afesona. Ni oju ba daru, apa e ba jabo. Oga mi wa ran’se pe mi, emi ba so fun arakunrin yii pe ojo n lo. Owo e ba gbe! O ni oun se n m’eye bo l’apo. Emi ro pe ejo e po, mo wa m’okan l’ara re. O ni oun ma pada wa to ba d’igba, mo ba la l’ela pe ko ma wole.