Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Free Glossary for the Hospitality Industry?

Being Austrian myself I found this sign from an Austrian ski hotel reported in Richard Lederer's "Anguished English" particularly amusing: "Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension."

A cultural note: In Austria, certain hours of the night -- usually from about 10pm to 6am or so -- are designated "quiet hours" ("hours of repose") during which one is not supposed to make noise, including running vacuum cleaners and similar activities. This seems a rather foreign concept in my Brooklyn neighborhood, where private garbage services routinely pick up large metal containers for debris around 1 am, people shout boisterously on the street when returning from Saturday night activities at 2 am, and drivers frequently honk their horns repeatedly at midnight when they pick up their dates to go to a club.

Back to our example: how did a simple sentence such as "Don't walk in the corridors in hiking boots during quiet hours" become so convoluted? Someone probably took a dictionary to the German original and decided that verbs such as "walk" were simply too pedestrian (pun intended) for a hotel sign. We can further assume, I think, that the person doing so was not a professional translator and probably had never actually spent time in an English-speaking country.

Clearly, a small ski hotel in the Austrian alps won't hire a professional translator to produce a couple of signs which were likely created on the spot as guests' conduct seemed to warrant them. After all, the sign is understandable and not offensive, so its purpose is served. On the other hand, there are probably a very limited number of such signs needed in the hospitality industry.

So, rather than having each hotel, restaurant and similar establishment do their own -- frequently non-professional -- translation, it might be helpful to post a list of such notices in various languages on a website. Managers of small establishments in the hospitality industry could then get professional translations for their signs, making communication between guests and establishments easier.

Since most of these establishments wouldn't bother hiring a translator for such signs anyway, we translators wouldn't lose any business either. Googling for such a site resulted mostly in translation service providers' sites, as well as a Hotel Industry Blog at a site called bookassist, which is a website on technology & online marketing for hotels. It seems to me that such a site is a little to technological for small hotels and restaurants to frequent.

If any of you are either in the hospitality industry or familiar with it, I'd be happy to compile such a list on my own website, http://www.reliable-translations.com/, at least in German and English.

Until next week,



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