Do You Speaka the Language?


That is the question, but to answer it, it is not so simple. My words are different to your words and that is why the mix-ups and misunderstandings often happen. The most commonly spoken language one would think is the Mandarin Chinese but it is not, would you believe, as this article where I read about this stated that ‘the most common language is badly spoken English‘! Apparently, the total number of English speakers in the world is about 1,4 billion, and the native speakers of this figure are about three to four hundered million in all. I remember myself while learning English in Finland that good old saying:

‘English is spoken all over the world.’

I read these hilarious and belly-achingly funny signs in English that had been placed in the hotels and shops in various countries.The thing with these signs and notices is that what the people meant to say and what actually was expressed were miles apart. I spent one evening trying to figure out how the wording should be to come across as the correct message correctly delivered. I will write down some of my suggestions which I will give after the hiccups. The European Union has this article called Fight the FOG – Translation Service guidelines. Here are some examples of the aforementioned signs and notices that I got from the EU and other sources:

‘Guard dogs operating.’ – USA

‘Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.’ – Swedish furrier’s

‘Don’t go to another shop to be cheated – come in here.’ – USA

‘GO AWAY!’ – Travel agency in Barcelona

‘When two trains approach each other at a crossing, they shall both stop and neither shall start up until the other has gone.’ – Law in Kansas

‘After one visit we quarantee you will be regular’.* – Indian restaurant sign

‘Not to preambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.’ – Austrian ski hotel**

‘Closing down, thanks to all our customers’ – Notice at a factory

What the Swedish sign wished to state was that ‘We make fur coats for ladies from the pelts provided by the customers.’ The guard dogs operating in a hospital would mean that the dogs did the operations and not the doctors! Funny. But what was supposed to have been said is this, I think, ‘Guard dogs are patrolling in the area’. The travel agency sign in Barcelona is really saying to the customers to scram! Not a very service-oriented attitude of a company if one’s thinking would be this! ‘Get away‘ is what they had in mind, I should think.

English is really my third language after Finnish and Swedish and I have spoken it for decades as my first language while living abroad. I have lived more away than in Finland. I think in many languages depending on who I am thinking of, and I have also dreamt in nine languages! I don’t translate the languages in my head in what I hear, neither in what I want to say but just let it flow. Most of the time it works fine but then there are the exceptions that are absolutely hysterical and side-splittingly funny. HA HA!! Stuff big way.You just gotta laugh at yourself.


Tis for now. Riihele xx.

* The article that would have made the sentence to what was aimed at is ‘a’ – to become a regular (customer) in their restaurant. To be regular is totally different thing as it means that you are not constipated. This very one gave me the best merriment of them all.

* * This one about the Austrian ski hotel really made ma brains work overtime in thinking what is the message that was supposed to have been delivered. Then as I was pondering and wondering it hit me, this is it! And this what I think it is: ‘Do not roam around the corridors in the skiing boots during the quiet night hours.’

The very last line of the hiccups about the ‘closing down-notice’ – what comes to me head is that they wanted to announce the closing down and thank their customers, not to blame them as this sign really indicated! So my suggestion is this: ‘Closing down. Thank you to all our valued customers for your support over the years.’ Or something like it. I find the trains in Kansas such a toughie one if there ever was one…

What are Your ideas to get the true, intended messages across?