Sometimes, a simple mistake in translation is the difference between a nicely flowing conversation and one that is halted due to a misunderstanding. A quick correction is all that’s needed in that case to rectify the problem. In other instances, a translation error could actually put people in harm’s way. This was the case at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire. A sign that was meant to warn swimmers about rip currents was supposed to say, “If you’re in trouble, wave for assistance.” Instead, the French translation read, “If you need help, ocean wave.” The translation is not only incorrect, but also confusing and almost humorous. Obviously, the state officials who put the sign up would have benefited from the help of a professional translator.
Many French Canadian Tourists Visit the Area
The reason that Hampton Beach officials made the translated sign in the first place was because so many French Canadian tourists visit the area on holiday, and they make up 30% of the summer business. Recently, the state greatly expanded the tourism budget to make these French Canadian visitors feel welcome, and the signs were part of that renovation. Not surprisingly, the French Canadian tourists were actually offended at the botched translation. Many were surprised that the officials in charge of the signage didn’t try harder to get a professional translation before erecting the sign.
The State had Many Translation Resources
It’s not like the people in charge of the sign didn’t have access to reliable French translation services. There is a Franco American center in the town of Manchester only a few miles away. The error was not intended to offend anyone, but was more likely a lazy mistake. Many people don’t realize that there are major differences between French spoken in France and French spoken in Canada. The sign might have made sense to visitors travelling from France, but to French Canadians, it was gibberish.
Major errors in translated signage can be offensive to the people you’re trying to help. Companies and state officials should never post a translated sign without first checking with professional translator services. Otherwise, the words could be wrong and people could become confused to the point of chaos. Obviously, if beach-goers were caught in a rip current, they’d probably wave their hands around instinctively, so the sign might not have made a difference. Though, you never know when someone might need assistance.