Translation Woes


You don’t see much English on signs where I live. French either, though France is just a few minutes drive away.

So it was a little surprising to see a bilingual sign on the fence of the ostrich enclosure at the Mundenhof, the zoo in Freiburg.

Warning signs in zoos are not uncommon. Especially ones that remind visitors not to feed the animals. This one I noticed immediately because there was no German. I guess Germans are naturally well behaved and don’t need to be warned.

In French the message is not to feed the baby ostriches, not even long grass. Apparently their digestive tracts can’t handle it, and too much could kill them.

In English we were told not to feed the chickens. I looked, but didn’t see any chickens, just ostriches.

I’m surprised no-one caught that. Everyone here, as far as I know, learns at least basic English in school. Enough to know the difference between a chicken and an ostrich. Even a city boy like me knows they aren’t the same bird.

It not being a word I use in everyday conversation, I looked it up. Ostrich is Strauss in German. Chicken, I already knew, is Händchen. You aren’t likely to get the two mixed. Seems pretty sloppy to me.

Now that I think of it, that was the only English (or French) I saw on my visit to the Mundenhof. The sign on the gibbon’s cage, warning that if you got to close with your phone it might get grabbed by an ape, was in German only.

Too bad I didn’t think of it in time to ask why?





  1. InseasoNout · · Reply

    May be they meant ‘chicks’ – if that’s the term for baby ostriches, and google translated into ‘chickens’. Haha.

    1. The French is “petites autruches,” or little ostriches. If they got it right in one language, I would expect them to do it in both.

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