Like many travellers I am often amused by the strange renderings of English translations I encounter in foreign parts. In the UK professional translators are only permitted to translate into their mother tongue or language of habitual use and for good reason, as some of the following signs will demonstrate.
This was seen at Kunming Eastern Bus Station. The meaning is unclear but it looks like a title for a comedy sketch. In fact I think it is for changing tickets and getting refunds. How did the translator come up with this translation?
Note that step
The translator might be forgiven for this one as the meaning is clear. However, it instinctively feels unidiomatic to me. Surely we would say ‘Mind the step’. It is used like ‘mind your head’ or ‘mind the gap’. I wonder though, given the many meanings for the word ‘mind’ whether a non-native speaker would reject it and go for the less ambiguous ‘note’.
Is this some new technology? Turning the fleece back into the plastic bottles. I don’t think so.
Some are just cute
Here is another attempt at the same message
They just about get the message across and in any case its not life threatening but on the other hand….
does not deliver the right message. But we know what it means “Danger of Drowning”
On the otherhand this one is completely mystifying
and verging on downright irresponsible. It actually wants to say something like “beware of rock falls, keep to the rock wall and do not loiter”, but you wouldn’t guess that from the “translation”
It would appear that the inaccuracies of some of these translations have been pointed out to the authorities concerned as there are various attempts, some more correct than others, at intervals along the same route but the wrong ones have not been removed.
Amusing as this all is, there is a serious point. Consider if you will a legal document, a business contract, technical instructions and specifications and then ask yourself if you would entrust these documents to any of the “translators” who were responsible for the signs shown above. This is why translations should be done by professional translators who are native speakers of the target language!