FALSE FRIENDS, GOOD AND BAD TRANSLATION
Leitsystem auf Englisch
Heute ein Beitrag von unserem Junior Translator Ben Davidson:
While translating a corporate design manual, I came across the word Leitsystem. As it was a heading, there wasn’t much to be gleaned from direct context, but a brief scout around the page and its pictures revealed a few pointers. They are talking about signs that give people directions.
The good book
I dragged the biggest German dictionary I could find from our bookshelf in the office and flipped to ‘L’. No luck this time. What about the online dictionaries? Dict.cc offers ‘guidance system’ and ‘guide-system’. They are more closely related to rockets than pedestrians. Leo and Linguee both offered ‘signage’ as a possible translation. Not a conclusive result, but the signs were good.
Go to the net
I had heard that one of our other customers uses ‘directionals’. I put that into Google. It served up 490,000 hits – mostly about tennis. After a little thought, I decided to try combining ‘directionals’ with Leo’s suggestion – would “directional signage” work? Over half a million hits on English language sites – and Google images results showed exactly what I was looking for. I noticed many of these results also contained ‘wayfinder signs’, but another search showed this term is far less popular.
Which way to go?
In certain contexts, you may be able to get away with simply using ‘signs’ or ‘signage’. In this instance I needed to be more specific. ‘Wayfinder sign’ does seem to be used, but not nearly as often as ‘directional signage’, and some of the Google images results were fairly questionable. So, my favoured term (by some margin) is ‘directional signage’ – it returns the most hits and, crucially, those hits are relevant. Hopefully that’s pointed you in the right direction.
Thank you, a very useful Leitsystem about how to get to a translation of a term that really IS an equivalent to the original one!
Is there any chance you'll revert to the font size you were using before? This is extremely small and quite hard to read.
Tons better, thanks a lot 🙂
Be careful with the number of results Google claims to find—these stats have been completely unreliable for some time now. By going to page 10 of the results for a particular search term, the number can often change drastically, sometimes from several million to a few thousand! -Matt
I'd need context, but "signposting" sounds like a better translation to me.
@Matt: Thanks for the tip. It seems as Google becomes more sophisticated in its search methods, it’s becoming less useful in our field. I liked it better when it was a bit simpler.
@Alexander: You’re right, I didn’t make the context clear enough here. In the text I was translating, Leitsystem referred to the signage used to direct people in and around buildings, at trade shows and exhibitions, for example. The reason I chose not to use signposting is that it has – to me at least – connotations of those old road signs you sometimes see in rural villages in Britain. I don’t think it is quite right in this context – I needed something with a more modern feel.
Thanks for reading,