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Sometimes, side-splittingly funny things happen even in the world of translation.
The above is a photo of a road sign. It’s a bilingual sign written in both English and Welsh. People who don’t know Welsh will assume that the text below the arrow is a translation of the English text above it. Even the length is similar, don’t you think? But in fact, this is what’s actually written:
English: No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only
Welsh: I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.
You can clearly guess what has happened here. Someone in need of translation sent the English text to a Welsh translator when that translator happened to be on vacation. That translator set up an out-of-office automatic response on his email, and because that response was in Welsh, the client, who didn’t know any Welsh, assumed that response was the translation when he checked his email and made the road sign using it.
There were multiple layers of mistakes that were involved in this incident that was even photographed to evoke uproarious laughter from many translators all over the world.
- The mistake of the translator who made his out-of-office response function in Welsh instead of English
- Something along the lines of “Auto-response:” usually appears at the front of out-of-office responses (although there might be mail hosts that don’t do this), so the mistake of the client who didn’t check for this
- The mistake of the client who didn’t even use Google Translate to find out whether the received text was the translation he requested even though he was dealing with a language he didn’t know
- The mistake of the Welsh-speaking drivers who didn’t report such a road sign
As you can see above, the translator made one mistake and the client made two.
But we have no control over how other people behave. So all of you should create your automatic out-of-office responses in English. For example, you can say “I am currently not in the office. I will return to my office next Monday (February 5, 2017).” If you do this, you’ll probably be able to avoid this kind of unfortunate incident. Remember! Most of your clients can’t read your native language.