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.