This post continues our analysis on the Chinese to English translation of sign posts. The case in point today is “Slip Carefully”, as can be seen on this Chinese-English bilingual sign post.
I don’t know what’s your first reaction when you see it. I just can’t stop laughing. How could one “slip carefully”? It just doesn’t make any sense. But as Chinese to English translator myself, I can see that the translator is trying to do the job word by word, because “小心” can be translated as “carefully”, while “滑倒” can be converted to “slip”. But the real meaning of the four Chinese characters are actually “小心，不要滑倒”, or “Be careful, don’t slip over”. The translator has missed the implied negation and thus produced something that semantically contradicting.
A more appropriate and idiomatic expression can be “Wet floor!”, which describes the condition of the floor, rather than explaining all the possible consequences. Once again, the understanding of context is of great importance for English to Chinese translator in doing translation work. In addition, I think the sign post can be enhanced by adding some graphic illustrations, such as a person is slipping or falling down.