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Sunday, January 8, 2017



This cranky re-run is from January 2011

The USA is a melting pot for peoples and cultures from all over the world.  Our citizens and visitors speak many different languages.  I am not like many in our country decrying the fact that some in this great land do not learn to speak English.  My objection is the proliferation of multilingual signs.

Printing signs in multiple languages is not cost effective, and I think it is insulting to those that do not speak English.  If you see a big yellow sign on the floor with a picture of a dude slipping on his ass, is not “Caution Wet Floor” enough?  What cretin, regardless of his preferred language does not figure this sign out?  How many times do you need to see this sign before you learn that “Caution Wet Floor” means “Cuidado Piso Mojado”?

If you are going to a rest room and don’t speak English, which door do you take; “MEN” with a picture of a dude, or “WOMEN” with a picture of a dudette?  If I spoke only Spanish I know I would be relieved to also see “Senor” or “Senora” because I would be too stupid to figure it out.

Maybe I have too much faith in mankind, but I think that a picture of a lit cigarette in a circle with a line through it would be enough for most people to figure out smoking is not permitted.  If not, is it asking too much to expect Non-English speakers to learn that “No Smoking” means the same as “No Fume”?

In NYC the pedestrian signs only say “Walk” or “Don’t Walk”.  I have never seen a confused foreigner standing on the curb unable to figure out when he is allowed to cross the street.

Do we really need our exits to be marked both “EXIT” and “SALIDA”? Maybe this is convenient for my Spanish friends, but I get confused.  Is this the way out of the building, or will I end up standing in the salad line?

What happens to all the visitors of this country that speak neither English nor Spanish?  It is just so sad to see all those foreigners falling on their asses running through the “Caution/Cuidado” signs, walking in unexpected to the wrong rest rooms, not knowing how to leave a building, and smoking like a chimney right under a “No Fume” sign.

Do we need to put up signs in every language that visitors or residents speak?  Where do you stop?  Signs in Russian, French, Japanese, Chinese (twenty dialects), Arabic, and Yiddish, would not only be mind boggling, but would still not cover everyone. What of people from India, or the twenty plus languages of our own Native Americans. 

Do we need “No Parking” signs to also say “No paaking” for our Massachusetts residents?  Do our signs really need to be multilingual? 

I don’t think so.  Creo que no.           


  1. Hahaha. The salad line. :D I think this post goes hand in hand with your "Where do we draw the line" post.

  2. One of my "biggest" gripes is the fact that people that immigrate legally or illegally to our country don't learn the language and we have to provide signs or interpreters to them. It amazes me that after being in a country 20-30 years people still don't know the language (I see this frequently in reports I type). My sister and her family lived in the Netherlands for 2 years a few years back for her husband's work. They were not provided a translator. If they didn't know the language and didn't bring someone with them to interpret for them, it was basically "tough luck." I truly believe if you are going to live in a country that is not your country of birth, you really need to learn the language. Of course there are those that this is their country of birth and they still don't know the language.

    Getting off my soap box now.


    1. A few years ago, the Army base for U.S. soldiers near my hometown grew in size. The first thing the town did was to provide English classes for its police force.

      Were they expecting the American soldiers not to speak German? Or were they expecting the American soldiers to have a lot of contact with the German police force?

      LOL on people being born here and still not knowing the language...I proofread a lot of their writing!

  3. I think the wet floor sign might be more effective if a puddle were drawn under the man's legs, so there's no confusion at all, no one would think he is merely leaping about like a circus performer.
    You do have a good point though. People living or traveling to, an English speaking country should know enough English to understand the signage.

  4. Unless you are in Wales Joe - remember THAT post? Slippery floor in Welsh is 'llawr llithrig' - No one is EVER going to be able to translate THAT!

  5. The "no paaking" gave me a laugh.

  6. We have signs in French and English and we have signs that are pictures only. I never thought about it, but, are the pictures only signs because someone thinks Canadians are too stupid to read?

  7. When i was in Greece, the signs were in Greek, which i didn't speak. If they had pictures, i understood anyway. And i memorized enough words in Greek (with their alphabet) to figure out a few things. It's really not that difficult.

  8. I thought those figure signs were meant to be used w/out words.

  9. We have to politically correct you know. Inclusive to everyone. Don't get me started.

    Have a fabulous day Joe. ☺

  10. Sadly, I have been confused by some restrooms that only post pictures on the doors because some of those drawings are not obvious. Too much creativity is not always a good thing.

  11. Years ago I worked as a department store display manager and my boss required me to hang signs in Spanish. Since Mexican schools all taught English I figured most of the people looking at these signs were illiterate and had no idea those signs were written in Spanish.

  12. I heard about a group of Asians that parked under a sign that said "Fine for parking" because they thought it would be fine. It wasn't, but they were. (True story!!)

  13. Like Bijoux, I have sometimes had to wait out side a restroom to see who went in or came out as the pictures and terms were unclear. Unless you are a farmer, duck or drake don't mean that much.

  14. It's probably cheaper for the companies to make these signs in several languages and then ship one version off to various countries.

    There is one brand of chocolate that I like from childhood. It's sold here in the States, too - with a label in seven languages. Imagine being told you eat too much fat and sugar in English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Greek, and Arabic!

  15. I agree with Betty - it amazes me that after being in a country 20-30 years people still don't know the language.

  16. River has a good point. Maybe there SHOULD be a puddle drawn on that slippery floor sign. People might be on the lookout for banana peels, and slip in the water.

    Then again...they might think the sign says to acrobatically pee on the floor!

  17. Sometimes I appreciate the bilingual signs. I try to learn a couple of foreign words. However, reading and studying these signs slows me down. Takes me twice as long to enter a bathroom, cross a street, etc. Very funny post. I enjoyed reading.


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