Another Welsh Road Sign Translation Fail

Poor translations of Welsh road signs are nothing new, unfortunately, but this latest report is a real winner. According to the Penarth Times, a road sign in Penarth literally tells Welsh speakers to stand in the middle of the road!

The English version of the sign says “When red light shows wait here,” but the Welsh translation, “Tra bydd golau coch sefwch yma,” translates to “When red light shows, stand here,” as if urging pedestrians to stand in the road where the sign was set up.

The sign was spotted by Welsh law student Eleri Griffiths, who informed the local newspaper via Twitter. Ms. Griffiths, who handles Welsh translation for the Law Society at Aberystwyth University, expressed her dissatisfaction with the translation (along with the state of Welsh translation in general):

“The amount of signs that come out with the wrong translation is ridiculous. I don’t understand why it was allowed to be completely wrong. It’s not right. Welsh is an equal language to English and if English signs were wrong people would complain about them… There aren’t many Welsh speakers so there are people translating English to Welsh just by going on Google Translate. It’s quite frustrating.”

It is quite frustrating…and an excellent reminder that when it comes to translation, it’s the little things that count.  Since bilingual road signs began going up in 1965, there have been enough Welsh translation gaffes and errors to fill a book, quite literally. Titled Sgymraeg, it was published in 2011 is available here if you’re in need of a laugh.

If you’d like your business to avoid translation errors like this, give us a call!


Links Between Welsh and Elvish

A new book from Cardiff University Professor Dr Carl Phelpstead gives Welsh geeks one more reason to be proud of their heritage: it was the inspiration for Sindarin, one of two elven languages created by fantasy author J.R.R Tolkien. The other, Quenya, is based more on Finnish.

Tolkien was entranced by the sounds of Welsh. In “English and Welsh,” a speech he gave in Oxford, he notes that the sounds of Welsh had always called to him: “I heard it coming out of the west. It struck at me in the names on coal-trucks; and drawing nearer, it flickered past on station-signs, a flash of strange spelling and a hint of a language old and yet alive; even in an adeiladwyd 1887, ill-cut on a stone-slab, it pierced my linguistic heart.”

It’s only natural, then, that Tolkien would use one of his favorite languages as the inspiration for the speech of the Grey Elves. As Dr. Phelpstead explained to the BBC,  “It’s not so much that he borrowed Welsh words, more the sounds. This particular Elfish language is very like the sounds of Welsh and deliberately so. I have a friend of mine who is a Welsh translator who went to see the Lord of the Rings films and when they started speaking Elfish in the film she turned to her daughter and said ‘they are speaking Welsh’ so people do see this relationship.” Read more