Decoding Politician-Speak

Расшифровка: decoding

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The financial crisis is providing an unexpected lesson in language and culture. By my unscientific observation, in the United States some people believe only politicians in their political party. Some people don't believe any politicians of any party. And a few fair-minded souls believe bits and pieces of what every politician says, regardless of party.

In Russia, I've observed the same behavior. But here, another factor seems to influence perception: the subject. When the subject is world events, budget allocations or strategic planning, folks who voted for the current president and political party tend to believe what the leaders say -- more or less. But when the subject is money -- their money -- the situation changes dramatically.

This creates problems for the hapless foreigner struggling to understand what's going on. We hear one thing, but our friends and significant others hear something else altogether.

You hear: Россия сможет преодолеть мировой финансовый кризис, так как за последние годы в ней были созданы специальные подушки безопасности (Russia can overcome the world financial crisis, since in recent years special "safety cushions" were created in the country). You think: Aha! That reserve fund is going to be used. Thank heaven there's nothing to worry about. But your Significant Other grabs his coat and heads out the door with the words: Блин! Надо срочно вынимать деньги из банкомата (Crap! We've got to take money out of the ATM right away). You say: А подушки безопасности экономики? (But what about the economy's "safety cushions?") He says: Какая ты всё-таки наивная! (You really are so naive!)

What do Russians hear that we don't hear? With the help of Russian friends, I've attempted to break the code of public pronouncements on the financial crisis.

Quote: Ликвидность дается, но она часто не доходит до потребителя (We are able to maintain liquidity, but it often doesn't get to the consumer). Code for: Мы влили уйму денег в банковскую систему, а куда они делись -- никто не знает (We poured a ton of money into the banking system, but where it went, nobody knows).

Quote: У нас нет сомнений, что мы спокойно пройдем эти непростые явления в мировой экономике (We have no doubt that we will calmly get through these complex events in the world economy). Code for: Сомневаемся. Даже очень (We have doubts. Big ones).

Quote: У нас создана специальная рабочая группа, которая в режиме реального времени отслеживает все эти процессы и вырабатывает необходимые решения (We've set up a special working group that tracks all these processes in real time and takes necessary measures). Code for: Если группу создали, значит, дела плохи (If a group was formed, it means things are real bad).

Quote: Эксперты уверены, что паниковать раньше времени не стоит. (Experts are certain that there is no reason to panic ahead of time.) Code for: Время для паники ещё впереди. (The time for panic is still ahead.)

Quote: Совет 'едерации одобрил закон о полном страховом возмещении по банковским вкладам (The Federation Council passed a law on full bank deposit insurance). Code for: Видишь! Я же тебе говорил! Надо срочно снять все деньги со счета! (See! I told you! We have to take all our money out of our account!)

Quote: Россияне штурмуют банкоматы (Russians are storming ATMs). At this point, you say: Если бы не штурмовали, не было бы и проблемы! (But if they weren't storming them, there wouldn't be any problem!)

He says: До чего же ты всё-таки наивная (Are you naive or what?)

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter.