Wednesday, 29 April 2009

More translator-babble

While proofreading a legal document translated into English by a Polish translator, I found myself confronted with the puzzling phrase 'under pain of nullity'*. Now, I'm not a legal expert (shh - don't tell anyone I translate for), and the legislative world has a way of coming up with phrases that sound downright weird in plain English, so I googled it to check. The results were an entertaining wake-up call on not trusting what you read in the dictionary:

Item 1: a google search reveals confusion over the pain of nullity:

Item 2:
Polish translator no 1 asks for English version of phrase on forum. Polish translator no 2 offers
solution. Everybody happy.

Item no 3:
Confused English contractor, in receipt of a Polish-translated contract, goes online to check what it all means...

Does anyone else find this funny? Or have I just retreated into my own little translator world...

* (In Dalek voice: 'You will be deleted... you will be deleted...)

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Lesson in comparative adjectives

For some time now, I have suspected that our grammar teacher (Bad Cop) is hiding a heady youth filled with Polish rock music.
Every week or so, we revise (and occasionally just 'vise') a section of Polish grammar, and every other week, more or less, we receive the lyrics of a new rock song or two.

It began innocently enough, with the past (imperfect) and Marek Grechuta (and the Myslovitz cover) of Kraków...

... another taste of Marek Grechuta for a bit of locative case practice
'Zgubieni w krzyku megafonów
W ogromnym światów wielkim'...
(Znajdziemy sobie)

... then things got serious, with a little dopelniacz (genitive) my friend:

'Ile razem dróg przebytych?
Ile ścieżek przedeptanych?
Ile deszczów, ile śniegów
wiszżcych nad latarniami?'

(ps, still Marek Grechuta - lyrics by Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński - if this seems a little too detailed it's cause I used to write essays a lot and I'm afraid of copyright law)


A little change brought us back to the future (tense) with Edward Stachura...

...but today's offering on comparative forms topped them all:

Altogether now:

Wierniejsza od marzenia
Weselsza niż wspomnienia
Cenniejsza od zaszczytów
Piękniejsza od zachwytów
Wierniejsza od marzenia
Otwarta na spojrzenia
Silniejsza niż nadzieja
Pogodna jak niedziela

It's helping with the PIT rage, really it is...

Monday, 27 April 2009

Urząd Skarbowy

I stepped off bus 194 into the heart of Kraków's northern badlands. All around were brightly coloured blocks like matchboxes. Squatting behind the bus stop was a low building incorporating KFC, Lewiathan and one of those new plastic internet banks, all slowly, dustily baking in the sunlight. It was classic osiedle territory, even down to the kids swinging on the carpet-beating frame. Not an Urząd in sight.

Next to Lewiathan was an old guy slowly turning a rotisserie on which chickens and various other bits of carcass were skewed. I strolled over to ask him for directions....


The management would like to apologise for the interruption of this post due to excess rage. Normal service will be restored once the author has calmed down and filled in her PIT-37 online.

In the meantime, please enjoy this soothing music video:

Friday, 24 April 2009

Polish word of the day: 0032009

Today's Polish Word of the Day, ladies and gentlemen, is:


Definitions in English, according to my dictionary: evidence, avowal, declaration, declarement (dictionary published in Poland, possibly without the assistance of a native-speaker proofreader) deposition, return, statement, testimony, utterance, witness.

And - because context is all (said King Lear, no, wait, that was ripeness. Still another month to go until strawberry season, sigh) - an example of usage:

zeznanie podatkowe o dochodzie

Yes it's that time of year again. What's the problem? I hear you ask. Pinolona works in the UK now - surely she's just a temporary resident of Poland, what's with the tax declaration?

Well, that was what I thought. Only... towards the end of February, my old employers sent a PIT-11 to my parents' house. I saved a copy of the pdf on my computer and thought no more about it. After all, I've already paid, right? And it was only four teeny tiny little months after all. And for the rest of the year I was registered as a proper Sole Trader in the UK, with National Insurance contributions and everything (you can pay online - it's very dangerous actually, once I had to run home in a panic, thinking I had accidentally paid 300GBP to Her Majesty's Inland Revenue instead of my credit card bill). You know and I know that by 2050 they won't be paying out state pensions any more, but let's pretend, because it makes us feel better about not having a private pension scheme yet.

Then, I heard a vicious rumour that anyone in possession of a PIT-11 (and that would be me: I picked the thing up - with tongs - from my parents' place over Easter) is liable to a GodAlmighty Fine should they fail to fill in the next PIT form (I forget which, thirty something I think) by April 30. That, ladies and gentlemen, would be next Thursday.

Oh crap.

See now, I really, honestly meant to deal with it as soon as I got back from the UK after Easter. But in the way that we deal with things we don't really want to deal with, when we really hope they'll just slip away out of sight and out of mind. So I wrote a few emails, I sent a couple of facebook messages, felt very efficient, and made a cup of tea to celebrate. And then... well, some work came up. And there were a couple of other things to do. And there were train tickets to buy, and classes starting again, and routine maintenance like fringe trimming and bikini waxes (no there won't be a post. It's not that sort of website). Not to mention 'accidentally' staying in Bunkier Sztuki for three hours after salsa class. Or going out for an 'essential' pub meeting to 'practice my French' (if it's in French, it counts as work, not socialising).

Then, of course, I simply had to go to Budapest for the weekend. It would be a crime to have lived in Central Europe for almost two years and not have visited one of its most beautiful capital cities. Photos to come. Don't change the subject!

Now we all know how it is. When we know we are going on holiday on Friday night, do we work on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday? Like fun we do. But that's fine, right? We can do the rest when we get back. Because the translation isn't due until next Friday morning. And it's a nice easy document, only 57 slides. And we've already translated... wait a minute ... thirteen.
No problem!
Thursday night was a little painful.

Did I mention the mid-term exams?

Our teachers were very casual about this. Too casual for my liking. I knew in advance that we would have exams after the holidays. Around late March, I started to get anxious, but little information was forthcoming. Now, when I'm going to have exams, I want to know when, where, on what, and exactly what percentage of my final grade this will constitute.* On Tuesday, I returned from Budapest having missed Monday's class.
- Do we have an exam on Thursday? I asked the other students
- Probably
- Probably?! Didn't she say?
- Well... not in so many words...

(please note that we all speak in Polish together and this is therefore pretty impressive. I'm really looking forward to visiting my Japanese classmates when they move back home and communicating in Polish in the middle of Tokyo, for no reason other than that we love it).

Anyway. We had exams. I had work. And it was all over by about 11.30 this morning. Dressed in my bestest**, I emerged, blinking, into the sunlight and tripped carefree up Grodzka to the Urząd Skarbowy.

I was so good, you would have been so proud. This time last year, I posted my declaration on the last possible day (a Sunday) at the 24-hour post office in front of the station. I was so hungover - after a sushi goodbye party, with saki, for a Japanese friend - that I retched all over the side entrance. I sat down on the step for a moment, wearing rather scruffy boots under my summer skirt and carrying a plastic bag. An old man swore at me and tossed a few grosz in my direction. I was a disgrace.

This time was much better. I checked the notices first, clocked 'enquiries' on the second floor and went straight upstairs. I even remember to pick up a PIT-37 for my flatmate on the way.
I got to the top. There were queues of people everywhere, and I could see this was going to require elbow power. But no! Wait! The queue by the enquiries okienko mercifully consisted of one woman only. I arrived, I explained my situation and...
- ah no. Pani has an English address. You should go to the other Urząd.
- Excuse me?
- This is Stare Miasto. Since you don't have a Polish address, you should go to Śródmieście.
- Where is that exactly?
- Krowoderskich Zuchów
- Ah.

Krowodrza is a suburban district in the north of the city.

There was only one thing left to do.

I bought an obwarzanek, walked home in the sunshine, and went rollerblading for two hours.

Now I'm looking for a friend with a car, to drive me to this Krowoderskich Zuchów place...

*This is a more or less accurate representation of my attitude in this regard:
**When I was an Erasmus student in Italy, there was a Polish girl in my French literature class (don't ask why we studied French literature in Italy. Something about ECTS credits). She showed up to the final exams beautifully turned out and explained that in Poland, one always dresses up for an oral exam. I followed her example.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Happy Post!

See, we're off to Budapest for the weekend (must charge camera) and I don't want my blog to be left open at 'discrimination' and 'xenophobia' for the weekend, so I'm going to write a Happy Post, full of Cheerful Things.

1) Chocolate: I finished all the Easter chocolate (already), and I'm on a sugar high.

2) We had a conversation class on the European Union this morning. Topics for discussion were suggested by members of the class at the beginning of term and this was one of mine (note there was no limit given to the amount of things we want to discuss, and I'm argumentative). In line with the plan, at ten on a Friday morning no-one else had anything to say on what is basically a very boring topic, so I was able to enjoy the sound of my own misplaced końcówki for almost an hour and a half.

3) Salsa dancing: salsa is great, we go to these salsa dance nights and dance with strange men (mostly computer scientists... oh crap, I forgot to finish that post) and after class we have started going to the pub with Real Polish People who speak to us in Real Polish (with końcówki).

4) Twitter: I'm wondering whether or not to sign up to this. It sounds like a lot of extra effort but it would be well worth it to be able to subscribe to Stephen Fry's succinctly witty Tweeting. I found out that there is a Polish version called 'Blip' (Bardzo Lubię Informować Przyjaciół), but I wonder whether this has the same implications in terms of sharing news. The now well-known example is that of the plane landing in the Hudson, which was posted on Twitter by a bystander from his camera phone, long before CNN had got the story. If the service only runs in one country, surely the potential for promotion and networking - at international level - is hindered? (although obviously it's much better at national level, language being the same, greater incidence of local people signing up, etc.).

5) Taxes: I may have to do a tax declaration for the four months I worked in Poland last year (although hopefully I'll get a rebate, since I spent the rest of the year in the UK and my company, such as it is, is registered there). More importantly, this means that I will have to visit the Urząd Skarbowy, which should be hilarious and very blog-inspiring.

6) Did I mention that we're going to Budapest tonight?

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Poland discriminates against foreign children

Phew that's an eye-catching headline. At least that's the idea. I was thinking either that or 'Tourist kids exploited by Polish rail' or 'Full fare for foreigners!'

I was sitting on the Balice Express, waiting for the ticket inspector to come around and trying to block out the sound of two Sun-In blonde, skinny-jean-clad English teenagers singing a brassy mixture of Lily Allen and Marsz Dąbrowski.

- Two adults and two children please.
said an English voice somewhere in front of me. The ticket inspector looked a bit puzzled.
- It's the same, said a Polish man, also in English
This seemed a bit strange, particularly as she'd just sold a reduced-fare ticket to a Polish mother and child up ahead.
A Polish woman sitting across the aisle from me explained to the ticket inspector that the Englishwoman was asking for half fare for her children.
The ticket inspector shook her head, and replied, in Polish, to the Polish woman.
- No, no. It's only for our children. They have to have a school ID.
The Polish woman interpreted for the English family:
- No, there's no discount.

To my shame, I didn't interrupt and explain the actual situation.

When the ticket inspector came around I said very pointedly that in England both foreign and English children rode half-fare on trains.

- Not in our country; said the woman, curtly.

Now come on, Poland: here I am, explaining to all my friends back home how great you are, what a fantastic country this is and how nice the people are - not to mention pouring scorn on any suggestion that this might not be a normal 'civilised' (disclaimer: the author of this blog uses the lexeme 'civilised' with very particular associative connotations which she hopes make it evident that it is in fact a citation and not attributable to her own personal use of the connotation-less word in its full Empire-era ... uh ... glory) country where you can't buy Weetabix or Marmite in the corner shop - and you go and spoil it all with this child fare discrimination business! How am I supposed to fight off the Daily Mail crowd now?!

Why on earth does a child need a school ID to prove that they are child enough to pay the reduced fare? Surely the size of the child is evidence enough! In the UK, kids under 15 pay half fare and it's that simple. It doesn't matter where you come from: in fact I'm pretty certain it would be considered racial discrination to differentiate between English and foreign under 15s (n.b. a quick look at the Transport for London website indicates that 11-15 year olds do indeed need to carry an identifying photocard).

Come on, Kraków! Think of all the revenue generated by foreign tourism every year! As a gesture of goodwill, surely it makes sense to treat foreign children on an equal footing with Polish children? Now that we're a grown-up member of the EU and foreigners actually do come to visit and all...

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Spring, finally.

So now I'm back in Sevenoaks for a few days and actually have time to do something that isn't translation, grammar classes, Polish homework or salsa dancing (guilty), I'll tell you about our trip to Tyniec last weekend. The snow finally melted about two weeks ago and the sun came out with a vengeance, more than making up for its late appearance. We begged, borrowed and stole bicycles and rode out along the river to the monastery. It took us about two hours, with plenty of water breaks, photo breaks and rest time for the one guy on rollerblades (with two stretches of ordinary road to navigate, we held our collective breath very nervously indeed watching him coasting along hanging onto the seat of the bike in front).

No, screw that - writing is far too much like hard work. Here are some pretty pictures instead.

Beautiful day
Inside the monastery chapel

And from the outside

How'm I supposed to convince my friends back home that Poland is a modern, civilised country?!

Luckily, we got back in time for the student pillow fight in the main square. UJ students are in white, AGH in green (or maybe blue) and Akademika Ekonomiczna in... uh... does it even matter?!

When I left on Wednesday, the streets were still strewn with fluffy mounds of feathers, gently ruffled by the breeze.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Good Friday

There's a sense of quiet drama about Good Friday, even in the context of English - rather than Polish - Catholicism. The inside of the church is stripped bare: no flowers, no altar cloth, no wall hangings - even the carpets are torn up and rolled away out of site.
The atmosphere is one of deep sorrow. Lighting is kept to a bare minimum and music is provided only to pick out the supporting chants and responses. Any statues are shrouded in purple cloth. Banners and even votive light stands are turned to face the wall, as though hiding their faces.

Devoid of inspiring images, music and lighting, in an empty, whitewashed building, human beings search for a sense of the divine - for an answer from the blankness: why have you forsaken us?