We live in the age of communication, when the power of words can break down barriers between countries, cultures and indeed civilisations. Shame then that we often make such a howling cock-up of it.
Never have faces been redder than in 2012, the year when multicultural Britain was on show to the whole world.
In fairness, the attempt by rail company First Capital Connect to make its signs legible for people of all nationalities was laudable. It’s just a shame they didn’t road-test a few of their notices before getting out the hammer and nails.
Thanks to an unfortunate font mix-up, First Capital Connect’s Arabic signs (displayed at mainline train stations around London – pictured above) ended up reading back-to-front and sporting incorrect spacing. Sadly, this rendered them complete gobbledegook for anyone of the Arabic persuasion.
The debacle, quickly picked up by national news media, prompted an angry backlash from Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, who branded the situation “a farce”.
It’s a timely reminder for us all to be as careful with our translations as we are with our initial drafting – otherwise we risk alienating the very people we’re trying desperately to connect with.
Here at Wordsworks, we regularly handle business copywriting which needs translating from a foreign language into English, or vice versa.
Recognising the importance of accuracy, we partner with professional translation agencies whose teams are fluent in more than 100 languages, from Afrikaans to Zulu and everything in between – guaranteeing happy clients, whatever the project. And no red faces…