When a Mistranslation Leads to Wrong Directions on What Bathroom to Use

With translations, a single missing word can usually have disastrous results. In the sign above, the Spanish asks that the bathroom in the yard should not be used. However, the English translation, loses the negative, and instructs to “go to the bathroom on the ground.”

A single word was not translated. The Spanish “no ir” implies “not to go”, and “ir” is the infinitive verb meaning “to go.” The loss of a single word reverses the meaning of the whole sign. The sign is no longer a warning in English; it sounds more of a command, to “go to the bathroom on the ground.” The original was painted over, but it is still clearly seen that the word used was “playground.” Between the “yard” and the “playground” is a world of difference. It is good that the word was corrected. What remains is still a wrong instruction.

When translating, care should always be taken so that the exact meaning should be carried over to the translation. The loss of a negative, would always have the opposite result. This is an elementary error, which has happened a lot of times. Even in documents, typographical errors such as these, or even transposition of letters in words, can have unforeseen consequences.

Warning signs are for the users. They are being told what to do, where to do it, or what not to do. The above sign now becomes a command to go to the bathroom on the yard, which logically, does not make any sense.

In ordinary conversation these kinds of errors can be corrected by the listener. They would understand the context, and would also know what was meant. In signs, these kinds of errors are not explainable. When writing even the simplest of signs, it is necessary to have it corrected by a native speaker, or someone fluent in the language. Spanish is a very common language, and quite easy to learn.

Image credit – via Pinterest

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