International signage: Pitfalls and how to avoid them

A talk by Paul Mason

We can all think of examples of mistranslated or incomprehensible signs and notices we have come across. This talk will focus on:

  • How to make even non verbal (i.e. pictorial or iconic) signage truly international
  • The importance of briefing translators properly about the context and likely readership of a proposed sign
  • How to decide on the order of languages in multilingual signs
  • How to ensure the layout works for every language.

Paul will include some examples of misleading or amusing notices from around the world (e.g. sign in airport: ‘The lifts are being fixed for today. Meanwhile passengers will be unbearable’)

Paul Mason is a seasoned traveller and linguist and has long taken a keen interest in maps, signs and symbols. Cicero Translations which produces the wording and layout for multilingual notices in airports, hotels, ships, company reception areas etc, and has worked on a number of BAA projects.

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