Physically impossible entry

No 31 in this New York Times collection of strange street signs.

My impression is that the Chinese are ahead, but it seems hard to criticise them for this: huge efforts have been made over the past decade to make a previously sternly monolingual country more accessible to foreigners; the effort is laudable and the meaning usually clear.

It is harder to defend Spain, which has had mass Anglo tourism and immigration for a long time but failed to respond adequately. This effort by Granada Council is a bit sad–you know what they mean, and if they’d gone into a tourist bar they could have had it corrected for free. However, Granada is still way ahead of places like Ripoll, which houses one of the marvels of Iberian Romanesque but doesn’t think it worth advertising that fact in any but the local language.

No translation: no mistakes, but less tourists too. “Wher herte is failed,/Ther schal no castell ben assailed,” but you’ve got to wonder in cases like Ripoll whether the heart is even willing.

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Last updated 15/05/2010

This post pre-dates my organ-grinding days, and may be imported from elsewhere.

Ajuntament de Ripoll (3):

Ayuntamiento de Granada (1): The Ayuntamiento de Granada is the institution charged with the government and administration of the Spanish municipality of Granada.

Barcelona (1399):

English language (462):

Föcked Translation (414): I posted to a light-hearted blog called Fucked Translation over on Blogger from 2007 to 2016, when I was often in Barcelona. Its original subtitle was "What happens when Spanish institutions and businesses give translation contracts to relatives or to some guy in a bar who once went to London and only charges 0.05€/word." I never actually did much Spanish-English translation (most of my work is from Dutch, French and German) but I was intrigued and amused by the hubristic Spanish belief, then common, that nepotism and quality went hand in hand, and by the nemeses that inevitably followed.

Spain (1881):

Spanish language (504):

Translation (788):


  1. I worked at a hotel reception some years ago. One day I took down a brief announcement from the wall to correct its English. Comment of the head receptionist: "Don't bother, people will understand it anyway."

    The town where this happened was celebrating that same year "50 years of foreign tourism". It was a town in Spain.

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