Ukulele & Languages

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Fishy translation on a northbound ferry

29 2009

Where I live, temperature often lies around 35-38 degrees Celsius (95 F – 100,4 F) in the summer and I must admit that I am not too fond of the heat. I am therefore quite happy when the time for our long drive to Norway arrives.

One summer, we left home in the usual blazing heat, and started our drive northwards. Every 200 kms or so (about 124 miles), the temperature dropped a couple of degrees, much to my relief. When we reached Kiel in the North of Germany, it got much more breathable. From Kiel we boarded the ferry to Göteborg in Sweden.

If you have ever wondered if anyone actually read the signs displayed in different parts of the ferry, well I do.  Contrarily to what you might first think, they can be highly amusing. Here is an example :

Funny French Translation on Stena Line sign

Funny French Translation on Stena Line sign

As I was telling you, I was quite pleased to have escaped Burgundy’s heat. But here is what the French translation of the sign read : ” There is a laundry with a washing-machine and a drought at the back of the ferry, on deck 6″. And I who thought I had just escaped the drought…

The word “laveuse” instead of “Machine à laver” or “Lave-linge” is also quite interesting. Laveuse could translate literally as “washerwoman”  so you would almost expect to find a woman hand washing your clothes at the stern of the ferry. The use of this word puzzled me so I checked it and it is apparently in use in Canadian French. But the use of the word “sécheresse” (drought) instead of “sèche-linge” (dryer) really looks like a translation mistake.

My German is too rusty for me to judge but I feel like the German translation is a bit fishy too.  If you are a German native, don’t hesitate to leave a comment to confirm this.


  1. Acilius on the 1st of October 2009 @ 21:43

    I’m not a native speaker, so I may be wrong, but the German looks OK to me.

  2. Armelle Europe on the 1st of October 2009 @ 21:58

    Acilius : it’s the “ganz weit hinten” part that puzzled me. Why say “quite far back” for “astern” ?
    I feel like there should be a better way of saying this but I could be wrong.

    Your comment reminds me that I should check if you got any reaction to your “low-hanging fruit-at the end of the day” post .

  3. Acilius on the 6th of October 2009 @ 04:44

    I’ve heard “ganz weit hinten” in Bavaria a number of times, though never with reference to ships.

    I did get a bit of response to my “low-hanging fruit” comment, thanks for bringing it up.

  4. kalen on the 7th of October 2010 @ 14:49

    The German is definitely off… It’s not wrong per se, it’s just not the way we say it.

    First off, Trockenschleuder is VERY old. We use the same formulation as in English: Trockner = Dryer or der Tumbler = Tumbler

    Second, the ganz weit hinten is out of place. The real German word for astern is achtern. But any German who lives south of Hamburg may not get the nautical lingo. Even still, the “weit” is completely unnecessary in this case because ‘ganz hinten’ already implies you’re heading to the back of the boat. So ‘weit’ makes it seem like it’s a very long walk rather than helping you find the washing facilities.

    Finally, the last line would normally be written in the passive form, but that’s neither funny, nor really important.

    safe travels in the future

  5. Armelle Europe on the 7th of October 2010 @ 17:56

    Kalen: Thank you so much for taking the time to clarify the German translation with such detail. It gave me an opportunity to revise some German and to confirm what I suspected.

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