The random nervous system

No, this one didn’t occur at all often and certainly isn’t in the list of the top couple of hundred mistakes. Just a prime example of the kind of slip-up that makes a document leave a very dubious impression.

Think about what you’re saying. Especially if you’re using a computer translation as the basis of what you’re putting on paper (how much you should use those is an entirely different discussion, of course, and one that will undoubtedly change in the coming years). Anyone can make mistakes under time pressure, of course, but this does look like the translator had little understanding of the subject matter, or was taking short cuts by not checking what Google Translate or DeepL had coughed up. So here’s the actual mistake:

  • willekeurig generally means “random” / toevallig
  • willekeurig zenuwstelsel uses the word in its less usual sense, “controllable by the will” / door de wil be├»nvloedbaar
  • so this should be the voluntary nervous system

Ouch.
Meaning mangled.

Prevalence: rare. This error has only appeared twice. Through different agencies, although I can’t exclude the possibility of it being the same author both times.
Frequency: low. Only once in each document.
Native: potentially. As it’s showing shortcomings in expertise or professionalism rather than poor English.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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