Mistranslations - Forbidden The Step

The Dangers of Literal Translations by Unskilled Individuals

There are few instances of a precise one to one correspondence amongst terms that are in two different languages. Even when it may seem intuitive that two words must have the same meaning because they look and/or sound similar, it is possible that we may be in the presence of false friends. These, of course, often lead to terrible mistranslations.

Professional translators know that literal translations rarely work the way we think they should, and this is precisely why the translation business is so important. It takes a trained linguist to understand and translate even the shortest of texts. This particular mistranslation is a very clear example of why a person with a dictionary can never truly replace a human being who has an ample knowledge of the target language and its culture.
True, ‘prohibido’ does mean ‘forbidden’ and is often translated as such. The English counterpart ‘the’ can be used to replace the definite article ‘el’, and a ‘paso’ is used to refer to a ‘step’. However, as our English-speaking intuition can tell, “forbidden the step” is a poor translation of “prohibido el paso” This is proof that language goes beyond the basic meaning of individual words.

As a provider of professional translation services, Day Translations offers you the correct translation of the original message: “NO TRESPASSING”. It’s that simple! But it takes a trained translator with a deep understanding of both English and Spanish to get it right.

You’d think that the Ministry of Defense (“Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional” in Spanish) would do a better job with translating a message as important as this one. When you are trying to keep individuals from trespassing, it’s important to make sure they understand where they’re prohibited. This image has proven once again that mistranslations are everywhere, and can affect anyone!

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Image credit: ’10 Worst Translations Ever’ from Oddee