Mistranslation - Computer Confusion

Confusion on the Use of Computers

This sign is telling patrons that there is a limit to the use of the computers each day. If the Spanish instruction were to be translated directly into English the translation would be “A limit of 30 minutes on the equipment once a day.” So this sign is telling patrons that the computers can only be used for a maximum of 30 minutes once a day.

There are two parts in the English translation that add a bit of confusion to the message that the sign wants to impart. The first of these is the part that says “one 30 minute.” Instead of using “once” which is what “un vez” means the translation opted to say “one 30 minute turn….. a day.” It still conveys the same message that the computers can only be used at one time during the day and for just 30 minutes but this message is delivered in a rather confusing way due to the lack of proper punctuation. The translation could be better if a hyphen was added to say “one 30-minute turn…”

The second phrase that is subject to interpretation and misinterpretation is the phrase “turn on computers.” By “turn on” do they mean that the computers are “on” and therefore functioning? So, the message then would be that the computers can only function once a day and for just 30 minutes.

Or does “turn” in the phrase refer to the time when the patron has the chance to use the computer? If this is the intended meaning of “turn,” then the message would be different. It would now mean that that when patrons get their turn to use the computers they can just use them for 30 minutes and only once a day. This second interpretation seems to be what the sign is really trying to say and is supported by the second sentence of the sign that asks patrons to register with the Children’s Information Desk. This gives the impression that the use of the computers is being monitored and regulated.

This sign is definitely subject to misinterpretations by first-time patrons but definitely not for regular patrons.

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