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Olympics security poster ‘gibberish’ to Arabic speakers

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The Olympics isn’t having a great time in the media at the moment, and there’s still a week to go to the opening ceremony. With so many visitors descending on London and the UK with so many different languages and cultures, there’s a need for accurate translation and interpreting to ensure all the information needed is accessible.

The problem is that for most businesses, accurate translation isn’t seen as a priority. Today the BBC reported that First Capital Connect has been caught in the “lost in translation” trap. A security poster translated into Arabic, has been branded ‘gibberish’. First Capital Connect do claim that a professional translator was used for the original translation. However, when having a translation published you should always have a proofreader check over the translation, ideally before and after the desktop publishing has been carried out.

The details really matter

Here are the simple steps which would have averted this PR disaster:

  • Have an independent proofreader check the translation. Translators check their own work, but they’re human so mistakes can be overlooked.
  • If you’re publishing the translation, have the Desktop Published poster proofread before it goes to print. If you were printing a poster in English, you’d proofread it, so why not do the translated version?

And what price have they paid for what wouldn’t have cost them the earth? A post on the BBC website highlighting their misfortune, amplified by the recent negative Olympic coverage, and the derision of the Arabic speaking community they wanted to reach out to.

If ever there was a cast iron case for using a professional translation service this is it.

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