Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Lost In Translation

Back home again, and well rested. Now to putting things straight! I did not bother with checking emails in Salzburg – in the brief minutes I did manage online, I had better things to do. So this morning, sorting out all that, doing lots of washing, checking food cupboards and fridge and going out to buy milk and fruit etc. Bob has kept things ticking over beautifully but stocks are running low.

The journey back only had one little hitch. We got to Salzburg airport, and checked in. I went through the security arch OK – my colleague set off the alarm. She had this in her pocket

hotel jey

We cleared the bedroom before breakfast, put the keys in our pockets and took our cases downstairs. She had forgotten to hand in her room key, and the large, heavy, metal fob set off the alarm. Ooops! Then I felt in my pocket. Yes, mine was there too! Two questions

  1. Why didn’t anyone ask us for the key as we left the hotel?
  2. Why didn’t my key trigger the alarm at the airport?

The St Virgil leaflet had the wrong phone number on it, so we could not call them. The airport security woman said she lived near St V and would drop them off on her way home [how kind] I emailed St V late last night to explain and apologise. This morning they replied – but said no keys handed in yet!!

During the week I spent a lot of time listening to gifted woman translating German into English. Most ladies were not ‘professionals’ so there were some wonderful moments of misunderstanding. On our Sunday afternoon coach trip up to the Cloisters where the monks live

“This is a lake where many people from Salzburg come for a bath” [she later explained that she meant ‘for a swim’]

“This is the mountain for defaecation” [OK, that was a Mondegreen – she actually said ‘for the vacation’ I misheard]

“This lake is 104 metres deep, so you cannot walk in it” [!]

austrian lake

Announcement at the airport “Please go the door,  because your plane is parked outside” [do they park many inside?]

Two other signs that baffled me, and now I am home, I have found the translations – Gifte is the exact opposite – it is poisons. And those dayglo orange posters pinned to many of the trees in Salzburg which said Erotik Messe. I was worried it was some bizarre Catholic Eucharistic Event. In fact it was advertising a Trade Fair for the Sex Industry.

Now I feel I really ought to make an effort to learn more German beyond DanKe and Bitte – but Fraise, Floss and Fat Dormouse, you would have been proud of me – en route, I treated myself to a copy of Marie Claire Idées magazine at Frankfurt Airport, to help improve my French, and also asked Emmanuelle and Laurence, the two French women, to speak in French whenever we were chatting. J'ai essayé très fort!

Have you ever had any mistranslations which caused amusement or confusion ?


  1. "the lake is 104 metres deep, so you can't walk in it" - unless you are Jesus!!!

  2. That would be ON not IN, Gaz!!

  3. We insulted our Mexican migrant workers when we first met them. They would insist on addressing us using the formal form of 'you'. We would say "No,no...we are friends". No no in Spanish means 'not'. So we kept unintentionally telling them we were not friends, they kept using the formal 'you' and it all got a bit confusing !
    Jane x

  4. Aha, yes I remember that Gifte was a false friend! German is a cool language!x

  5. Every single day, Ang, and some of the mistakes are made by me! This evening I have received an email from an adult student, addressing two teachers and a group of colleagues, as 'Dears'. I have the deep desire to reply to her as 'sweetie' (she could probably handle it as we know each other well and get on), but will restrain myself and just teach her 'Dear all' next time I see her. My own mistakes are much worse and seem to involve a sexual innuendo every single time. It's a good thing that I look too innocent to have actually meant them!

  6. I have arrived home with hotel keys in my pocket several times (including once at Kings Park), and even managed to go out for the evening with the hotel room TV remote in my coat pocket!


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