Public Signs are Often not Translated Correctly

Public SignTranslationThe aim of German English translations is to bring together people and their cultures from around the globe. Many people usually study languages because they have a great interest in travelling to other destinations and they believe they will connect better with different cultures if they can speak the language.

On the other hand many countries which are visited by Germans may attempt to translate road signs and other signs into German so that the visitors can understand the message. The problem with these types of translations is the translation is often wrong as the translator that is often used comes from electronic online translation sources which are not always accurate. Professional German translators should be used, but when they are not, confusion reigns!

A poor translation especially a road sign could cause an accident to take place

Just like these, there are countless examples of signs that were translated automatically or perhaps by someone who may have had some understanding of the target language, but not enough. This happens all over the world and in all languages; incomprehensible instructions, words out of context and hilarious phrases that make it clear that no translator was consulted, and how badly one was needed.

Here are a few examples of signs that were translated by someone into Spanish from English, presumably to help Spanish speaking visitors, but actually either causing total incomprehension or confusion.

Example 1

On a sign presumably warning drivers of driving in extreme weather conditions, the English sign says quite reasonably:


The signs company has probably used an automatic translator to translate the message into Spanish, but the back translation (back from Spanish into English) converts this, for Spanish speakers into:


It’s hard to fathom what this sign would mean for Spanish speaking drivers. Of course, exactly the same sort of miscomprehension could easily happen in a Spanish speaking country (or German!) when the signs are translated into any other language.

Example 2

This one is positioned near a famous statue in the U.S. In English it reads:


The Spanish (an important second language in the U.S.) back translation reads:


Statutes in the U.S. are laws made by either the state or federal government so a simple spelling error totally transforms the meaning of the sign.

The lesson as with all translation tasks is to spend the money and use a professional translator.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get an Instant Quote

yes I agree to the Privacy Policy and have read the Collection Notice under the Australian Privacy Act.