Laughs in Mistranslation

One expects to have the odd translation issue when you can’t speak the language of the country in which you are living, usually those instances can be instructive, when the source of the mistranslation has been analysed. In Thailand, though, we’ve found that the mistranslation issues haven’t been that instructive, partly because we are yet to pick up our language study again and partly because they have sometimes been too funny to want to ruin with logic.
The first, and still funniest, was during the orientation visit. I was filling in the form for some laundry to be done while we were out home-hunting, and was using the last laundry bag, so I wrote on the bag: “May we please also have 2 more laundry bags? Thank you.” For those who have read my writing and think they already know the problem, I assure you that I printed it very carefully and legibly. When we returned to the hotel that evening, we found our laundry done but our King size bed had been replaced by two single beds, pushed together. After checking the closets to make sure we were in the right room, I rang down (already giggling slightly, because the situation alone was funny enough) and was told it was a misunderstanding due to something written on the laundry bag. I asked our relocation agent, who speaks English fluently, what it was about the sentence that caused the mistranslation, and she couldn’t work it out – even after she stopped laughing.

The latest example came up in the gym, today – this time the English was not supplied by me, and the ‘mistranlsation’ was probably simply a matter of taking it too literally, but I managed to get this one in pictures, so I thought I’d post it. First, here is a warning notice on a, rather odd looking, piece of equipment in the gym, downstairs – do read the whole thing, it’s worth it.

Removal of this Warning is prohibited by Law

Now here is a picture of the piece of equipment, itself – notice anything?

The Dangerous Equipment

I’m sure you’ll have noticed the actual stepladder provided (it is high but the video on the equipment site does not show the models using one) but do you see the little black thing on the window sill, in the background? Yup, that’s a bicycle lock. Open-mouthed smile

6 thoughts on “Laughs in Mistranslation

  1. Hi Danielle,Well, we just moved to Thailand 2 weeks ago so finding your blog was very opportune! It was only today that I blogged about [edited by Dani to avoid product promo and to sound less like spam, because Anne’s blog is actually worth a look 🙂 ], that we find very helpful in translating (and it even has a voice option so you can play a lovely Thai lady saying the words you want to say instead of butchering it yourself)! I look forward to reading more about your adventures (and learning from you too).
    Anne 🙂


    • Hi Anne,Hope you don’t mind my editing your comment but a) I have a strict no advertising policy on my blogs – mostly so I can do my reviews without bias and b) I wanted to let readers know about your blog and encourage them to actually go there and with the product names in there it would have been off-putting – they’ll find the product when they get to your blog 🙂
      Having a translator gadget or app with a voice you can play is really useful, here, because even if you have something written down in Thai, not all taxi drivers or Thais in general are literate. I’ve been thinking of doing a review of my little gadget, too – it’s been very helpful, though it always gets a giggle of surprise!


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