Monday, December 01, 2008

Lost in Translation

A brief report of the following incident has already appeared in this newspaper, but reader Mitchell Smyth passes along a useful elaboration from Britain's Sky News and The Daily Telegraph. It concerns a communications snafu in Swansea, the southwest Welsh birthplace of Dylan Thomas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. A large road sign was erected near a supermarket at the intersection of Clase Road and Pant-y-Blawd Road. It read:

"No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only."

Below was the official Welsh translation:

"Nid wyf yn y swyddfa ar hny o bryd. Anfonwch unrhyw waith i'w gyfieithu."

At least, the Swansea Council assumed that was the translation. What the Welsh part actually said was:

"I am out of the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated."

The council had sent the English message to its in-house translation service, but the translator was away from the office. The computer sent back an automated e-mail response in Welsh, which the council wrongly took to be the translation it had requested. The sign was posted before a Welsh-speaker noticed the mistake and contacted the Welsh-language magazine Golwg, which quickly published a photograph of the sign as an example of good intentions gone bad. The council said sorry, which in Welsh must look something like sry.

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