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Web letter by Ana Benito: English-Spanish translation does disservice in two languages

You have probably heard that Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages of the world. You may be aware at this point that the Spanish language is the second most-used language in the United States and the second country in number of Spanish speakers in the world, only surpassed by Mexico. The presence of Hispanic population is nowadays a reality in most cities of the United States, even in Fort Wayne. There are a significant number of Spanish speakers in Fort Wayne; I am one of them and I know there are many like me in this city.

Fort Wayne Community Schools is no stranger to the important role that learning other languages plays in the education of our children; Spanish is part of the curriculum in some elementary and middle schools, and I think one of the languages taught in every FWCS high school. The point is that Fort Wayne and FWCS have plenty of qualified people who – either as native speakers, teachers or even intermediate-advanced students of the language – can read and translate from English to Spanish.

Then I come across this sign outside one of the Fort Wayne public library branches. I have seen here and there in some public places around the city some bad translations. Some of them annoy me a little bit, and some just make me smile. However, the attempted translation in this sign is one of the most horrible ones I have faced in a public space in Fort Wayne. I doubt that even using Google Translate you can get it so wrong; it does not make any sense in Spanish. If the goal is to inform Spanish speakers, I can guarantee that only confusion and a huge ¿QUÉ? are going to come out of reading it.

So, my request to FWCS and Allen County Public Library staff in charge of trying to reach Spanish speakers using Spanish is that they, please/por favor, consult with somebody proficient in both languages, English and Spanish, before publicly displaying any sign like this one. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of people in this city who would be happy to help, and I include myself in that group.

By the way, the sign intends to say: “Niños. Almuerzo gratis. Edad: Hasta 18 años.”


Fort Wayne