With the amount of translation services and online engines around, one would think language barriers are being obliterated all over the place. To some degree this is correct, but where most of these services fail is in the department of cultural sensitivity. Not in terms of tip-toing around subjects, but rather understanding different colloquialisms, slang terms and so on.
If you’ve Google translated a sentence you’ll already know that the result will never be word-perfect. This is obviously forgiven in most social situations but when it comes to driving messages across to audiences, quite a substantial amount of research is required to be successful in reaching a broader base. Here are a few blunders that could’ve been avoided if the designers had practiced what we’re preaching.
I wonder if it could be as a result of the current economic crisis, but apparently at a hotel in Athens, moaning about the state of affairs is quite common practice.
“Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 a.m. daily.”
The Japanese generally have a reputation for being a very polite and gentle-natured nation, but the text from this hotel signage may change a few guests’ opinions.
“You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.”
Finding a doctor you feel comfortable with is naturally very important and thankfully some medical practitioners make the elimination process a lot easier. Here’s a sign advertising a Roman doctor’s service offering.
“Specialist in women and other diseases.”
In Hungary clearly they aren’t paying the staff at Zoos enough.
“Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.”
You Ethics Please, Sir
In hotels many people feel that they can just let loose and take advantage of the products and services (free soaps and shampoos) in their rooms without fear of making a mess, making noise and making a lot more work for the chambermaid (although apparently you are encouraged to take advantage of them in some instances). Well in a Paris hotel elevator, a notice warned that instead of leaving your important belongings at the reception you should rather leave your moral code:
“Please leave your values at the front desk”
It really does sound like a no-brainer, but language is all about communication. So when wanting to translate from one language to another, it’s really communication that should facilitate the process. Consult a “language representative” to see whether your content seamlessly interchangeable. This should go without saying.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Dave Peterson has been interested in cultural practices for years. His study of sociology and linguistics linguistics has seen him writing on everything from legal translation to advertising campaigns.