in czenglish

theodor’s in trouble /1/ good intentions, awful english

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in december 2004 a big tsunami wave rolled over southeast asia, killing hundreds of thousands of people. a czech guy named pavel was watching the news, worrying about a friend of his. this friend, whose name was theodor, lived in sri lanka, one of the places hit by the wave. so pavel wrote a letter to theodor to make sure he was ok. this is a very nice thing to do, no question about it. it is nice of pavel to write, obviously, even if the letter were written in awful english. which it sadly is.

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the original: bad bad english

see if you can pinpoint the errors in the text

dear theodor,

I had heard about a earthquake what destroyed your town

I was really shocked that it was so strong earthquake

with my wife we were very afraid of you until you didn’t phone

in my opinion it had to be very horrible, I wish you were ok

you can live by us in case your house can’t repaired

my family will do everything what we can for to help you

for example we will send you money not to beg

in newspapers it was written the catastrophe was very big

they wrote something about that it was the worst

well, a person never know what to wait, like it is told

obviously … zde: samozřejmě, pochopitelně
even if … i pokud, i kdyby
earthquake … zemětřesení
beg … žebrat

so what did you think of the text? did you see what’s wrong with it right away? or did it look like the kind of text you would write? either way, check the following part to see if you identified the errors correctly

teachers of english may be interested in a print-out version of this text

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pinpointing the errors

click on the little eyes to see what errors there are in this part of the letter. not all less-than-perfect phrasing is identified or else pretty much everything would be highlighted

dear theodor,

I had heard about a earthquake what destroyed your town
I had heard about a earthquake what destroyed your town
I was really shocked that it was so strong earthquake
I was really shocked that it was so strong earthquake
with my wife we were very afraid of you until you didn’t phone
with my wife we were very afraid of you until you didn’t phone
in my opinion it had to be very horrible, I wish you were ok
in my opinion it had to be very horrible, I wish you were ok
you can live by us in case your house can’t repaired
you can live by us in case your house can’t repaired
my family will do everything what we can for to help you
my family will do everything what we can for to help you
for example we will send you money not to beg
for example we will send you money not to beg
in newspapers it was written the catastrophe was very big
in newspapers it was written the catastrophe was very big
they wrote something about that it was the worst
they wrote something about that it was the worst
well, a person never know what to wait, like it is told
well, a person never know what to wait, like it is told

the bold bits should be corrected, obviously

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what’s wrong with the picture

why is that a mistake, you may have wondered when checking out the highlighted bits above. well, here is why

dear theodor,

I had heard about a earthquake what destroyed your town
–není důvod pro předminulý čas
–jde o konkrétní zemětřesení, tudíž neurčitý člen není namístě
what není vztažné zájmeno
I was really shocked that it was so strong earthquake
obraty jako be happy/surprised/shocked etc. se lépe používají s přechodníkovým to see/hear
jelikož se zde české tak vztahuje k podstatnému jménu (earthquake), nejde použít so
with my wife we were very afraid of you until you didn’t phone
–české obraty typu „s bratrem se nemáme rádi“ se nepřekládají pomocí with nýbrž and
be afraid of sb není bát se o někoho ale bát se někoho, podstatný to rozdíl
until už v sobě má zápor
–výrazně větší frajeřina by byla použít namísto phone sloveso odpovídající českému ozvat se, je to ovšem frajeřina, co vyžaduje dost zásadní znalost angličtiny
in my opinion it had to be very horrible, I wish you were ok
in my opinion je stejný opruz jako „meiner Meinung nach“ a ostatně i „podle mého názoru“
have to vyjadřuje povinnost či nutnost, pro muset ve významu českého určitě ano se používá must
I wish zde zní poměrně morbidně, pamatujte že se používá hlavně v obratech, kde bychom v češtině použili škoda, že (I wish you were here … škoda, že tady nejsi), zde byste tedy nebohého theodora použitím I wish předčasně zdravotně hendikepovali
you can live by us in case your house can’t repaired
–pro české (krátkodoběji) bydlet se nepoužívá live nýbrž stay a to s jinou předložkou než by
in case není české v případě, že nýbrž pro případ, že (bizarně tedy vyzní třeba věta bury me in case I die)
can’t repaired je neexistující slovesný tvar
my family will do everything what we can for to help you
–opět: what není v angličtině nikdy vztažné zájmeno, i když v češtině ano (všechno, co vím … everything I know … „all I know“ je spíš „jediné co vím“), a vůbec: uděláme co budeme moct se dá přeložit daleko líp
for to, u českých studentů oblíbená prodloužená verze infinitivu, je totální nesmysl
for example we will send you money not to beg
–hezká angličtina a for example se na sebe šklebí z opačných břehů velmi široké řeky
–pro účelové věty typu „zmiz abych tě nemusel zabít / zavřu oči abys mohl odejít“ se většinou nepoužívá to a v záporu se nepoužívá not to. jestli studujete angličtinu už delší dobu a nevíte to, měl by váš učitel mít zařízeno bydlení na stejné chodbě jako miloševič
in newspapers it was written the catastrophe was very big
–české „někde něco bylo (napsáno)“ se nepřekládá doslova nýbrž pomocí slovesa say a v činném rodě
very big? come on, you can do better than that
–catastrophe existuje, ale znáte i lepší slovo pro pohromu, že jo?
they wrote something about that it was the worst
–zaprvé tato věta volá po lepším slovese než je write/say/tell
pokud zůstaneme u obratu write about, pak je nutné po něm (kvůli předložce about) ve vedlejší větě použít sloveso v ing tvaru
–a ten závěr (the worst) by taky chtěl ještě malinko dopilovat
well, a person never know what to wait, like it is told
a person: fajn slovo (lepší než zde užívané „a man“), zde ale zcela nevhodné, hledáme ekvivalent německého „man“, zástupné slovo pro člověka (člověk nikdy neví) a pozor, nebude to příliš formální one
–není každé čekat wait („čekal jsem až to řekne“ versus „čekal jsem, že to řekne“)
tell se používá pokud se k němu váže předmět (tell me what you think), jinak je třeba sáhnout po say (say what you think), a tady by tak jako tak bylo nejlépe použít jiný ustálený obrat (říká se, že)

happy now?

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setting things right

now we know what was wrong with the original text and we know why it was wrong. the only questions remains, how best to correct it?

I heard about the earthquake that destroyed your town

I was really shocked to hear what a powerful earthquake it was (that it was such a powerful earthquake)

my wife and I were worried about you until we heard from you

it must have been horrible, hopefully you are ok

if your house can’t be repaired, you can always stay with us

my family will do everything we can (do our best) to help you

like / for instance, we will send you money so that you don’t have to beg

the newspapers said that it was a huge / an enormous disaster

they actually called it the worst one of its kind ever

well, like they say, you never know what to expect