Thai-English Mistranslation - Beware of the Brick

It’s Either You Watch Where You’re Going or a Brick Might be Falling

The sign above might not be a mistranslation. Though it looks to be another literal translation. It is straightforward, and specific, referring to the brick in front of you. Without understanding the Thai language, you have to ask what is being conveyed.

There seems to be at least two possible explanations. The first one is to watch where you are going; and the second is to watch out for falling bricks. Without any context of the sign, it only seems as if this is near a construction area, where the sign is posted on an unfinished wall.

In translations, there is always the danger of a word in use, which can be interpreted in a number of ways. Conjecturally, the operative word is “in front” which might even mean “above.” That is presuming that the translator did not understand the difference between the two, or the words can also stand for both, depending on the circumstances.

This is a straightforward sign, warning the pedestrian, that accidents can happen. Either there is a brick in front of the pedestrian, or there are bricks all around. Suffice it to say that accidents and injuries can happen.

Even if you were a foreigner in Southeast Asia, as this looks like it was from Thailand, the red background helps the visitor focus on the danger. Whether the danger is from the front of from above, it does remind the casual observer that even though there is the possibility of danger, it is the reader who can prevent it, and not the brick, which can hit him. As it were, the brick may be there, but it is the visitor who should have the wits to avoid hitting an inanimate object.

When visiting other countries, especially when these are not native English speaking countries, it would be wise to understand color coded symbols, as well as the context of the message.

Image credit – Mistranslations via Pinterest

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