It is widely known that mistranslations have become a novelty tourist attraction in certain locations, with Japan now known for signs deliberately written in incorrect English for the amusement of visitors. However, one of our generous readers felt compelled to send us a mistranslation from his Japanese holiday earlier this month, as the experience was truly unsettling—luckily, he was able to steady his hand for long enough to take a clear picture, as he was unsure of what could suddenly emerge from behind the door! If you are still confused, then read on for the message that accompanied this particular mistranslation:
“Hello Day Translations. Since landing in Tokyo at the beginning of September, my holiday could only be described as wonderful. I have been able to catch up with old friends, I have eaten delicious Japanese cuisine, and the vibrant nightlife is very enjoyable.
But this morning, while eating breakfast, I was left in a speechless panic when I reached the restroom. At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, as the symbol on the left made me think it was a ladies-only toilet, but then the text left me terrified: the toilet had “separated to the male and the woman”?? Suddenly, I remembered every horror movie that has given me nightmares and my fear was made worse by the ominous “Don’t mistake”! What did they mean? What kind of mistake could I make? If I called the toilet “she” instead of “he,” would it punish me? Could I walk in on the “woman” part of the toilet by mistake and get arrested? What will I see if I open the door? A living toilet that has split into male and female forms, like a cell performs mitosis? But I thought it was a ladies-only toilet? I was confused, afraid and desperate to go to the toilet, all at the same time, so I took a photo of the sign to send to you!”
We hope you understand the confusion now, as we were also uncertain. Like our alarmed reader, we didn’t know whether to pay attention to the symbol or the text. But then, we didn’t clearly understand the meaning of the text either. Fortunately, a staff member quickly came to the assistance of the reader and explained that both sexes could use the bathroom, but not at the same time. Phew!
Mistranslations can make important messages difficult to understand. This is especially problematic in cases like this, when a sign needs to be clear and easy to read, so that information is quickly conveyed to avoid an embarrassing, or even offensive, incident. The translation error here defeats the entire purpose of the sign, while the incorrect symbol makes matters worse by adding to the confusion. The poor reader needed human assistance to finally understand the meaning of the sign, as the circumstances meant that it was too risky to make an assumption! Clearly, this translation is not the work of a qualified professional.
At Day Translations, we offer translation services for all types of signs, no matter how long or short they are. Our professional translators will ensure that your message is conveyed efficiently and transparently, for the safety and assurance of everyone involved. After all, a good sign needs to be understandable for it to work!
If you are walking around your city, or enjoying a holiday, and you come across a mistranslation such as this one, we encourage you to send it to us. Share your discovery with us by leaving a comment in the section below!