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Some rather embarrassing mistakes – The importance of proofreading

nullOver the years there have been numerous incidents in Wales involving some extremely embarrassing mis-translations from English into Welsh going public.

Back in 2006 a bilingual road sign was put up in the Vale of Glamorgan aimed at cyclists. The English, which read “cyclists dismount” was translated into Welsh as “Llid y bledren dymchwelyd”, literally meaning “bladder inflammation upset”. This mistake is said to be due to confusion between the words ‘cyclists’ and ‘cystitis’ when attempting to translate online!

In the same year a school in Wrexham was forced to remove a sign after discovering that the Welsh translation was incorrect. The English: “Pupil and staff entrance” and Welsh: “Ddisgybl a Baladr daflu i Berlewyg” were displayed, but “staff” had been incorrectly translated as “wooden stave”.

A couple of years later in 2008 an out of office reply ended up on a road sign! A translation request was sent to Swansea Council and it was assumed that the out of office reply which was sent back was the requested translation. The sign appeared as follows: “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only. Nid wyf yn y swyddfa ar hyn o bryd. Anfonwch unrhyw waith I’w gyfieithu.” The Welsh text featured on this sign translates back into English as “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated”…

More recently in 2011, there was a very confusing sign put up in a supermarket car park in Swansea. The sign read as follows: “Petrol [arrow pointing to the left] Allanfa [arrow pointing to the left] Exit [arrow pointing to the right]”. To non Welsh speakers this sign may have looked completely normal, but for Welsh speakers who understand that “Allanfa” means “Exit”, it would have been difficult to establish how to get out of the car park!

The above examples were brought to our attention when they made the national news. They highlight the importance of proofreading and attention to detail. Having your translations proofread by a second, independent linguist ensures that decisions regarding style, tone, register and terminology are taken objectively.

We always recommend our premium service, which includes proofreading, for all translations which are planned to be published on a website or printed on signs or leaflets. The slightest mistake or subjective decision could cost your company (and ours!) your reputation!

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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