Wales is a country rightly proud of its mellifluous ancient language, and works hard to preserve its usage in the present day. According to the latest data from the Annual Population Survey, around 75% of the population of Gwynedd can speak Welsh, and 28.5% of the country as a whole speaks the language.
While there are inevitably some English crossover words, it is a tongue very much apart from its near neighbour. This presents a challenge to learners, and translation and subtitling services. The idiosyncrasies of the language mean that relying on free translation services such as Google Translate is definitely not a good idea, as these bloopers show.
North Wales Live lists some hilarious misunderstandings that have occurred when information has been taken out of context. While they are amusing, inaccurate translation reflects poorly on a company or organisation, making it appear unprofessional, careless, and disrespectful of the culture of the country.
- In Wrexham last year, Welsh-speaking motorists were surprised to be asked to ‘ring back’ (Ffoniwch eto) when exiting a retail car park. The sign should have read ‘Please call again’ (Galwch eto). Once the mistake was pointed out, the site’s owners, Aviva Investors, speedily corrected the signage, presumably after many phone calls.
- Asda customers in Wales were led into temptation by a sign offering ‘free alcohol’ (alcohol am ddim); a mistranslation of ‘alcohol-free’. The correct signage should have read ‘di-alcohol’. Anyone taking advantage of the offer may have been somewhat disappointed with their teetotal tipple.
- Wales Online reports that a road sign in Penarth asked cyclists to dismount in English, while Welsh-speakers were warned of ‘the return of bladder disease’. Hopefully this baffling and alarming announcement didn’t send anyone rushing to the doctors.
- Even more fearful instruction was offered by Tesco in Haverfordwest, with a sign reading ‘park to bake the disabled’. Let’s hope the Welsh-speaking carpark users’ tolerance levels functioned better than Tesco’s translation services.
- One of the most famous examples of bilingual signage mishap occurred in Swansea. The English part of the sign reads: ‘No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only’, while the Welsh translation reads ‘I am not in the office now. Send any work to translate’. No further comment required.
- Back to Asda, who also produced a massive fail with their disabled parking sign in Cardiff. The translation itself may have been perfect, but unfortunately it was in Scottish Gaelic instead of Welsh. Only about 450 miles out in your signage placement, Asda.
- Finally, if you have ever wondered where you could purchase a ghoul to haunt your enemies, take a trip to Wales where there is an off-licence selling ‘wines and ghosts’, a perhaps understandable mistranslation of ‘wines and spirits’.
Hopefully the mistranslations caused nothing more than mild annoyance or amusement to Welsh speakers. However, the sloppy and embarrassing mistakes could have been easily avoided by double checking with a Welsh speaker or using a professional translation service. When it’s your job to communicate with the public, it’s best to be right first time.
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