Poor Translations Cost Students ExamsIf you’ve ever had to deal with a bad translation in an important situation, you will sympathize with the Quebec nursing students whose petition is getting a lot of press in the Canadian media.

The students claim that the English-language version of the licensing exam of the Quebec Order of Nurses was so poor that a significant number of them failed because of it.

Nursing students in Quebec have a choice whether they want to take the exam in French or English — but to hear them tell it, the questions weren’t the identical in the English translation. “Everybody was saying ‘Did you notice that question, what was that?,’” McGill nursing student Gabriela Mizrahi told CTV Montreal. “Why was there that word that doesn’t make any sense?”

The petition currently has over 400 signatories, spelling out the frustration anybody knows who was ever faced with a less-than-excellent translation in a high-stakes situation:

The candidates’ ability to demonstrate their knowledge and critical thinking was impeded by the quality of the translation. Before they could proceed to answering the questions, they first needed to decipher what was being asked through the poor translation. This took up valuable time and caused a lot of uncertainty. It seemed like the exam was not only attempting to evaluate the candidates’ nursing knowledge and practice, but also their decoding abilities.

Of course, this “decoding” should have been done ahead of time by a professional translator with a reliable proofreader — an exam is one of those situations where a great, reliable translation isn’t optional.

The Quebec Order of Nurses is responding to the uproar with an unusual step. They are investigating the issue and meeting with English nursing schools in order to address the situation.  “When we receive a petition as we did we take that seriously and we want to look at our procedure and see that we are doing it the right way,” Chantal Lemay of the Quebec Order of Nurses told CTV Montreal.

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