A sign in some Southern Delaware playgrounds sent a very frightening message to Spanish-speaking children who came to the playground looking forward to enjoying a little time outdoors: They must get a special permit if they were to play there or face police action if they didn’t! The message was a consequence of a mistranslation of the English sign, of course, which stated that children were required to be supervised by a parent or guardian while using playground equipment. The original message did not state any specific information about the police being involved, but rather clarified that those children playing by themselves were playing at their own risk.
Getting Things Straight
Such a difference in messages was a consequence of a mistranslation discovered by Dan Gaffney, host of a Delaware talk-show. At Day Translations, Inc. we work with professional English-Spanish translators for whom a translation such as the one written on these signs is simply inconceivable. The Spanish message is not only incorrect regarding its content; it is also grammatically flawed, as there is no subject-verb agreement. In Spanish, the subject (in this case “ustedes”, plural), must agree in number with the verb (in this case “debe”, singular). As the professional translation company we are, we present you with the correct translation of the original text:
“Se requiere supervisión de padres o tutores para el uso de las instalaciones del parque. Juegue bajo su propio riesgo.”
Luckily, Milford School District Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Kohel removed the signs the day after the mistranslation was exposed. When Kohel found out about the signs, she sent her husband to bring them all down and told the media that they had been installed before she became superintendent. She also asserted that the signs were a mistake and there had been no real intention to discriminate against Spanish-speaking children.
Image credit: By LATINO REBELS, Latino Rebels, LLC, 2014.