City of Fredericton to use Google Translate for all future signage

Fredericton — New Brunswick’s official bilingualism is throwing a wrench into far more than just the province’s schoolbus system. All traffic signs must be in both English and French, but somewhere along the way, these rules of the road got lost in translation.

Nowhere is the problem more evident than in the capital, Fredericton. In an effort to simplify what can be a tricky and expensive process for the municipal government, a city communications officer has proposed all further road signs — as well as anything that would normally be written in both official languages — just be put through Google Translate.

Photo by Dan McHardie, CBC

Photo by Dan McHardie, CBC

“It’s an easy way to ensure that things are translated properly, the first time around,” explained Wendell Knapp, who’s been employed with the city for the past 34 years. “Or if not properly, at least we can kinda get our point across. No idea how it happened, but someone rubber-stamped the purchase of 20 construction signs at about 29 bucks a pop that, when translated in Google, say ‘Warning: manholes on pupils.’ Let’s be clear — manholes should be under students, not on them.”

A Manatee reporter approached a concerned citizen who was loafing outside Coffee & Friends on King Street this morning. “It could explain why Frederictonians are all such god-awful drivers,” mused Michael Grant, 31, taking a break from his people-watching routine. “The poorly translated signs are likely what’s to blame for motorists in this city having no sweet clue how to merge when they’re getting on the Westmorland Street Bridge — they just stop and stare ahead like a deer in headlights!”

Not everyone is on board with the plan. “Google Translate — that thing’s no more reliable than a game of Telephone!” exclaimed Bev Reid, a longtime translator with the provincial government. “A message as straightforward as ‘Caution: Construction Ahead’ is liable to turn into ‘purple monkey dishwasher.'”

Reid’s job — and the jobs of every translator in the city and potentially the rest of the province — will become obsolete. Unfortunately for her, city council sees this is a step in the right direction.

“Look, we’re aiming to kill a few birds with one stone here,” said Mayor Brad Woodside, trying unsuccessfully to log into Fred-eZone on his phone. “If we put everything through Google Translate once, then again just to make extra sure, we can nip communication errors in the bud. Even if it doesn’t turn out accurately per se, at least signs will be consistently inaccurate. And once word gets out, Fredericton will be seen as a tech-savvy, forward-thinking city. And most importantly, Google Translate is a free service, so we’ll save a boatload of cash by using it — that is, if I can ever get logged into this damned Wi-Fi. Is there a password or something?!”

While the city is removing the erroneous signage, Fredericton citizens can visit: on their phones or tablets to learn what traffics signs are supposed to mean.

  1. […] — New road signs in Fredericton, haphazardly translated through Google, have been causing a great deal of grief within the capital city, and residents say the unclear […]


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