Telling Spanish Speakers Not To Smoke Can Get Complicated

Even translating short pieces of text from English into Spanish can be difficult. It’s not just a question of knowing the meaning of each word in the source text, and how they can be said in Spanish, but accurately conveying the original intent of the message is also critically important.

The public sign in our latest mistranslation is an example that clearly conveys the importance of meaning in translation. Anyone who understands both languages here will immediately realize that the translation of the English phrase into Spanish is unquestionably inaccurate. Fortunately, the non-smoking icon beside the text helps to clarify matters for Spanish speakers! The English text was probably translated by somebody knowledgeable in the Spanish language—or with access to an online or automated translation system that provided a word-for-word translation of the original document—instead of a language professional who is qualified to produce an accurate Spanish translation.

At Day Translations, Inc., we use many years of experience in the translation of public signage—from English into Spanish, or any other foreign language pair—and only professional, highly trained translators oversee our projects. Therefore, our accurate translation of the original text, “This is a smoke/tobacco-free facility,” would have led to the production of the following Spanish-language sign:

“Este es un espacio libre de humo/cigarrillo.”

Can you think of another correct version we could have provided? Please feel free to share it with us in the comments section below!

Image credit: “Funny English Mistranslations! And MIZTAKES!” from funnyenmam.