Nov 182010

A translation error at a UK prison labelled an exercise yard as an “execution yard” in the draft of an information booklet for Russian inmates.

An inspection report mentioned the faux pas at Lincoln Prison in a section on foreign prisoners.

The translation was spotted by a member of staff at the proof stage, the Ministry of Justice said.

And jolly good thing too. That’s what proofing is for. Mind you, how anyone mistook “exercise” for “execution” I can’t quite understand. Could it have been a slip of the spell-checker? Are the Russian terms for these words similar? A few years ago we handled some prison manuals into Polish. I remember it being a long and fairly lucrative job. :laugh:

Full BBC story here

  4 Responses to “Execution in the prison exercise yard – translation error”

  1. Perhaps it was subconscious wishful thinking on the part of the translator. Coupled with the foolishness of inadequate proofreading (or none). It’s scary what can slip in if one is inattentive. I remember at translator at a company nearly getting fired when the CEO read the latest English manual and found “at the touch of a “. The office learned a lesson about possible side-effects of loose banter during work hours. (They were making fun of an over-used phrase in German involving computer mice.)

    Perhaps, though, this was merely a misguided attempt to encourage better behavior among prisoners by letting them know that the Queen’s servants are prepared to deal harshly with miscreants.

    • Well we do have a rather overcrowded prison population in the UK. Perhaps the high-earning translator was trying to do their bit to keep UK taxes low. Austerity measures and all that. :devil:

      One could say it was a poorly executed translation but we hope they learnt something from the exercise. (BaBum Tish) 🙂

  2. No, they are not. The translators probably mis-read the English word, as Kevin suggested above. Or it could be a bad joke, to scare the prisoners, though I very much doubt that…

  3. This is a very extreme instance of where language translation has gone wrong. Thankfully it was rectified before it caused any serious issues. However, it does highlight the importance of accurate language translation. As an international businessman I often need to liaise with clients oversees and I found that the most effective way in doing this is by using a translation company to translate my documents for me. They use language professionals and make sure translations read perfectly in the target language. A translation company may have prevented this language error form occurring in the first place. Maybe they used some automated translation tool available online, I don’t know. I guess in my experience I’ve come across too many translation errors to use anything other than a professional agency and this language error definitely reassures me to continue doing so.

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