Mistranslation on a Fitting Room

When a Fitting Room Becomes “A Room for Change”

Spanish is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the Western world. It is so prevalent that it has become one of the fastest growing languages in terms of use in the United States. In the southern part of the United States, there is an almost universal understanding and use of Spanish. In terms of trade and commerce, the growing Spanish-speaking population has made it necessary to install Spanish signs in department stores and shops.

The above is one such example of such a sign. However, the translator seems to have a rudimentary understanding of Spanish. Advanced speakers of the language would have used “probador” or “vestuario” to indicate a small room to fit clothes, or change. Instead, “fitting room” was translated to a Spanish phrase with a vague meaning. “El cuarto de cambiar” can be translated as “a fourth of change” or “room to change.” Native Spanish speakers can only forgive the poor fellow who mangled the language. They would understand the implications of the translation, or what it intended to do, but would shake their heads nonetheless and grin at the mistranslation.

One comes to wonder why such a commonly used language can be mistranslated. If such a sign existed, then most probably, the place has a sizable Spanish-speaking population, and in all probability, the shop has Spanish-speaking employees. However, the translation is vague, and just barely translates it. Literally, a fitting room is a room to change clothes in, but there are other words, which are proper alternatives.

The use of foreign languages shows not only an appreciation for other cultures, but it can also be a way to attract customers. Mistranslations of this kind are not really pandering, but they do not help in making the customers comfortable with the place. It is like using pidgin-Chinese to communicate with new Chinese immigrants. It fails and can be insulting. The real wonder is that the study of Spanish would have avoided this kind of error. Studying a language is easy enough to do, given time and a willingness to learn.

Image credit – via Pinterest

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