Thursday, February 03, 2011

Pragmatics in Bus Signs

These signs were hanging in the bus the other day (pardon the quality, it's a phone-cam shot).


'bell not working call out your stop' signs in English, French, and Spanish

What I noticed - besides being somewhat surprised that there was a French version - was that, first, the program doesn't know French and cut off the last letter of the verb travaillant (the present participle of travailler, related to English travail, putting it all by itself on the next line. (Also, the negatives que no and ne ... pas seem to have been added later.)

Second, in the French sign, the verb isn't the right one - the sentence means, basically, that the bell doesn't have a job or isn't employed. I'm guessing they relied on a machine or a dumb look-up in an online dictionary. What they wanted instead is la cloche ne fonctionne pas. (The Spanish is right, though you could say la campana no funciona, trabajo has the same double mean of "be employed" and "function" that "work" does in English.) (And now that I've said that, some Francophone will show up and say that travailler does, too...)

But even more interestingly, I notice that in French and Spanish they felt the need to be more polite. Where the English signs curtly order you to "call out" your stop (or even "shout" it out in the very curt sign), the other two use "please" and add an "in advance". Fascinating.

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2 Comments:

At 7:32 PM, February 03, 2011 Blogger Barry Leiba had this to say...

The moving of the final "T" to the next line just seems completely weird. No reasonable error in translation could account for that. It has to be a quirk of the printing, or some manual error by a person. But more to the point, that's the participle; it should be "travaille", not "travaillant", unless one adds an auxiliary ("n'est pas travaillant"). But see two graphs down.

The "que no" is wrong; it would roughly translate to "that it does not". The "que" shouldn't be there, and it should just be "La campana no trabaja."

You're right about "travaille" being wrong. One could use "ne fonctionne pas", but "ne marche pas" sounds better, more idiomatic. That is, "ça marche."

The "plaît" before "en avance" shouldn't be there (it already says "s'il vois plaît" earlier). Also, I think (not sure) that that should be "à l'avance" or "d'avant".

And, of course, all the markings are missing (as, for instance, in "plaît" and "arrêt"). But they did get the inverted exclamation at the beginning of the Spanish.

But, hey: they tried, and it's all understandable enough.

 
At 8:43 PM, February 03, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

The dangling T is very reminiscent of what often happens with Russian words in some programs. They simply doesn't know where the word boundaries are and break them arbitrarily at line wraps. I had always attributed that to the font, but I suppose it's just something that happens when the program doesn't recognize the language.

 

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