When I left a conference at the Jewish Museum in Berlin yesterday evening, a message on the wall greeted me on the way out (see photo). It said “Pat your pockets!” in English, but the German “Nichts vergessen?” translates roughly to “Did you forget anything?”. My first thought was: how clever not to directly translate, but instead pick something that visitors might get so they check if they have all their items on them. Maybe they forgot their camera inside the museum, or their umbrella at the wardrobe.
While I stood there taking this photo (not the first one, apparently) with my mobile phone, the doorman notices and asks me whether I was a native English speaker. German, I replied. He explained to me, that when they introduced this message on the wall, native speakers (including the museum’s director) had to laugh. Apparently, as much sense as “Pat your pockets!” makes to me as a German (and it’s even in the Urban Dictionary!), because that’s exactly what I would do when I leave a building – as little does it have in common with what people actually say, or are familiar with as a fixed expression in the English language. Native speakers find this message highly strange! Pity the person who thought of it, they certainly meant well.
What do we learn? Translation does not equal translation, and no matter how good your English is, or how convinced you are, all localization requires verification, including by trained native speakers. At lingohub, we are aware of this crucial factor, and the processes on our platform ensure, that whatever you want localized, the result is always both translated by a native speaker, and verified as a correct translation in the correct context. Don’t get lost in translation. Be Global, Go Local.