It’s turning out to be more complicated than I thought: post first, correction below, clarification bottom.

Esperanza Aguirre’s Madrid appears to have made impressive advances in implementing bilingual (Spanish-English) education in the region. Unfortunately it didn’t bother to check that Adsolut, the creative agency on the system’s new ad campaign, had included a translator in its €127,600 budget. And so, as El País reports, “want” becomes an intransitive verb and the administration looks like a bunch of amateurish wuzzocks. Here’s an alternative scenario:

– Hi, Adsolut here, we heard you’re a decent translator and we wanted to run something past you. Is ‘Yes we want’ good English?
– No. And public flogging is being introduced for crap Obama ripoffs.
– OK, we’ll get back to you.
– Thanks, I’ve billed you at my base tariff of 60€.

Anyone got a picture of the ad? What’s bilingual education in Madrid really like? Is David Blundell talking out of his posterior end when he says that it’s not a good idea to mix Spanish and English in marcoms? How long will it take Adsolut to emerge from hiding (for an adman in a storm, any pub is a good pub) and announce that this so-called mistake is in fact a cunning way of attracting massive attention for bilingualism in Madrid?


Someone has kindly sent in grabs of the screens of the Flash animation, from which it is clear that unless you think font colour has a determining influence over grammar Adsolut’s work contains adsolutely no linguistic error, as was claimed by Mariann Larsen Pehrzon of the Facultad de Filología of the Complutense, Caridad Baena, President of the Asociación de Profesores de Escuelas de Idiomas de Madrid, translator Leonie Woodin and other authorities quoted by El País’ reporter, Elena Sevillano:

So, while the campaign may not be terribly graceful or creative, my apologies to Adsolut and the Comunidad de Madrid. And a raspberry to El País, who surely weren’t looking for any old stick with which to beat dear old Espe…

Correction corrected

See Peter’s comments and this photo. Here from El Mundo is another screen grab someone sent in:

I think it’s like this minor disaster from Barcelona Council: professional conception, amateurish execution.

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  1. They presumably want us to read "Yes, I want estudiar el próximo curso…". Would you OK that linguistically? Perhaps they'll take out the layout guy and shoot him.

    I still can't figure how they managed to spend 100 grand on the creative side, but I never really did understand the murky nexus of politicians and business.

  2. If that's what they want, the layout's poor. They are highlighting the 'Yes we want', which should not be highlighted as it cannot stand alone. People seeing Spanish below it, especially in smaller letters, will not automatically see a single logical sentence. I have no linguistic objection to mixing the languages. Vueling do this, but they do it cleverly.

    But it is still true that the bus adverts had the 'Yes we want' as a standalone text with no English at all.

  3. When I saw your picture above, I read it immediately as 'YES,WE WANT aprende otro idioma' i.e. as two separate sentences, one in English and one in Spanish. It's a design disaster.

  4. I love you for posting this about "I want"!!!!! I´m not the only one!!! I´m soo tired of reading "fucked translations" in places with high budgets….you expect bad translations in menus of greasy spoon restaurants…but in the community of Madrid??? jUST ANOTHER STUPID example of Spanish bigotry against any University degree outside of Spain…
    I currently have 5 contratos-basura working in many different Spanish companies teaching English. I worked in a school before and quit since the head of the English department couldnt carry on a conversation in English yet taught Vallecas-English and earned double my salary…
    I have a part-time contract in RANDSTAD HUMAN RESOURCES……..their slogan= GOOD TO KNOW YOU. And it´s displayed everywhere…another fucked up translation…English is going to Hell in a handbag!!

  5. The practice of appointing Spanish-speakers who struggle in English to all well-paid English posts is notorious. A well-qualified British friend had to do some absurd Spanish exam in order to teach English to the armed forces. The examining panel were obviously nervous, and when it was all over one of them came over to him and asked, "How did we do?"

  6. One has to be careful with translating "Yo Quiero".

    Some years ago I was in a bar in Barcelona and the barman asked me what I thought was: "Would you like a Gin and Tonic?.

    Naturally I replied: "Si. Yo Quiero!"

    And then he said what I thought was "Would you like a large brandy?"

    Of course I replied: "Si. Yo Quiero!"

    And then I found a ring on my finger.

    So be careful when saying "Yo Quiero"

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