Saturday, March 8, 2008


I saw a sign at a meeting today that said: Wait here.

Underneath was the Spanish translation: Wait aquí.

Hey, they got it half right.

Bad translations get to me. Bad translations were done either by bad translators or by Babel Fish (which is an endless source of entertainment to actual translators). Either way, I can tell you that the target audience isn’t going to understand the translation and I refuse to translate a translation for them from Spanish into Spanish, because I’d only be guessing. You know what the better option is? Don’t translate it at all. Please. Just have me do a quick sight translation for them. It’s more time consuming, sure, but better for everyone involved.

The sign that makes me cringe every time I see it is in a courthouse where I sometimes work. All of us have said something about it and I feel it’s actually insulting and should be removed. One of the courtrooms has a computer monitor outside that says Small Claims. Or, in Spanish, Little-o Dinero. Hyphen and all. Please. Don’t. That sign says to me, I don’t give a s**t. Here, this looks like it could be Spanish. Why don’t you learn English? Or go back to your country? OK, that may be me reading too much into it, but those are all sentiments I’ve heard about the people I interpret for at one point or another.

Little-o Dinero. Even Babel Fish would do a better job than that.


Snickollet said...

Little-o dinero? My head is spinning.

You know what still gets to me? The fact that no one knows the diff between a translator and an interpreter. It's not offensive like that sign, but it's still frustrating to me.

The Hen said...

I love that. So sad and ridiculous, but oh, how I love those stories.
Years and years ago a "Spanish'' notice was posted under the bridge by city officials. It was a notice to the homeless people that construction would soon be starting and they needed to move on. I can not even describe how horrible the translation was. I called the city and found out that the woman who wrote it felt qualified because her father was from Morocco. You know, it is near Spain. I wish I had a copy of the story I wrote. Oh, how I wish.