Multilingual signage...can it ever work?

First issued in Directions 49

Paul Mason, a seasoned traveller, linguist and MD of Cicero Translations, shares his Top 10 things to think about when considering multi-lingual signs, following on from his talk to the SDS entitled “International signage: pitfalls and how to avoid them.”

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9. Hang them the right way up

This might seem blindingly obvious, but the Japanese version of a “Welcome to Saint Louis!” sign was hung upside down for several months on the highway leading into the city centre from the international airport.

10. Ask a linguist to give your signs a final check

A check by a competent linguist should be the final stage in any process involving multilingual productions. Cicero Translations once translated a brochure into Italian and Portuguese for a client. We offered to check a mock-up of the final version before it went to print, but the client declined. The printed versions which subsequently fell into our hands had the Italian version bound within the Portuguese cover and vice-versa.

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