I SAW THE SIGN
The Easter holidays have flown by and seem to have left almost as soon as they arrived, inducing a craving for more sun and freedom.
We Brits are well known for our preference for sunny places, probably motivated by year-round drizzle in our homeland. Grey skies and early nights suit me fine; but I’ll admit I have quite a few friends who enjoy lounging on a beach for countless hours (personally, I find sunbathing a tedious exercise).
On beaches beside the Mediterranean Sea my countrymen will soon congregate to show off their pasty white skin and penchant for excess alcohol and all-night partying.
For decades, hoteliers and restaurateurs at holiday destinations have done their best to make resorts as appealing to their target market’s needs as possible. Some strive to offer staple British products such as English breakfasts, HP sauce and – of course – copious amounts of lager.
A vast majority of holiday destinations make an effort to adapt their signage and postings, notices and warning signs. The effort is worthwhile; not only for English native speakers but also for many others, for whom English is a second language.
Here’s when it gets tricky.
Most of the signs are correctly translated by professional (or at least adequately skilled) agencies or individuals. One can navigate their way, for example, through Tenerife or Benidorm without difficulty; one can even use posters in hotel rooms as makeshift Rosetta Stones to learn German, Russian or Italian.
However when these posters are inaccurate, they can cause considerable confusion.
At one time, I wouldn’t have appreciated the extent of the crime; I would merely have assumed that a particular word was wrong and question whether my interpretation of the reading was correct in the first place. It’s like knowing you’re not in the right place, but being unable to say why.
Having lived in Barcelona for some time now, I’ve become more familiar with the vernacular and can sometimes appreciate not only the final translated result, but also the intended meaning of the original sentence.
Of course, as I realised when I noticed them, there are also many examples where someone has tried to translate from English into Spanish (yes, some of us know there are other languages around and want to please their speakers too). We all make mistakes!
My regards go to all those people responsible for these types of signs. They may have unintentionally misguided, drowned or poisoned a few tourists (or even just prevented said tourists from finding a toilet in time), yet we know their intentions were good and that they did their best. However, may we take this occasion to recommend proficient translation services next time?
That said, I must admit that it put a smile on my face when I came across the following linguistic oddities: Cecilia Menendez, whoever you are, thank you for your article! You can find the original slide show on: www.ehowenespanol.com.
Here are some examples, but if anyone has any of their own, please feel free to send them to our Facebook page.