Monday 18 August 2008

Bad Menu Translations

Having dabbled in the black art of translation back in a previous career I'm always curious to see how signs, instructions, and notices are rendered from one language to another. I can hover over a packet of washing powder for 20 minutes trying to decipher the mode d'emploi in various languages. On holiday I'm forever photographing signs with bad English.

One thing I find particularly irritating are restaurant menus that have been over translated. I'm not referring to bad translations but rather over translations when the word or phrase would be more clearly understood if it wasn't translated at all. Examples of this I have seen recently are cappuccino being translated to "coffee with milk and foam" when it's known the world over as - cappuccino. I've also seen the familiar quiche lorraine turned into "ham and cheese pie" whatever that is and croque monsieur become "Welsh rarebit" (which is not correct).

On of the most bizarre examples of the genre I discovered recently at Charles de Gaulle airport. I went over to the café to grab a coffee and on glancing the menu I saw they were offering crescent milkbread pastry (see photo above) it was several seconds before I realized that what they were referring to in their mixed-up, nonsensical way was simply a humble croissant and the milkbread pastry with chocolate filling was none other than our old friend the pain au chocolat.

Translators like these should note that sometimes less is more.