Translation right on our doorstep: Leeds Station’s piano


With an office full of linguists, it’s not surprising that we here at Web-Translations have a keen eye for spotting foreign languages in our daily surroundings. Leeds City Station’s free-to-play piano has recently captured our attention. Placed just outside McDonald’s, the piano offers a moment of light relief from the otherwise drab morning commute and has attracted some truly talented players amongst those passing by.

In a bid to make the piano accessible to all, Northern Rail have gone to the trouble of translating an instructional “play me” into 25 different languages (below). While we’re all for the promotion of multilingualism, we couldn’t help but notice some errors here. Perhaps someone got a little Google Translate-happy?

The back of the piano.

When checked against an online corpus, the Spanish Juégame returns precisely zero results. Jugar is a verb that describes playing sport or a game, whereas tocar covers instruments. The same is true of the Italian version (it should be suonare, not giocare) and the Turkish (çalmak rather than oynamak). The Turkish has also modified the instruction; rather than the piano demanding that you ‘play me’, the Turkish version demands that you ‘play to me’. Am I now taking orders from a mysterious third party? Things are getting a little out of hand…

Another more minor problem is the use of infinitives in the place of a properly conjugated verb: for example the German spielen mich – which translates back to English as ‘to play me’ – a pretty sloppy attempt.

It seems we weren’t the only ones to notice…

Sure, what’s written isn’t total nonsense, and used in this ‘just for fun’ setting they do no harm. But imagine these dodgy translations featuring as part of an ad campaign, or a header on a website; hardly the professional image you want to portray to your target foreign-language market. Remember: a good translation for business doesn’t seem like a translation at all.

Web-Translations can help you avoid any red-faced moments by coordinating the translation of your text by credible industry professionals. Get in touch today for a free, no-obligation quotation. That includes you, Northern Rail.