We spent the last few days of our Christmas vacations in Vienna, visiting several of Vienna's many wonderful museums.
Most of the exhibits in the shows bore interesting explanations, often with an English translation. Neither my wife not I know German, though we can sometime puzzle out some simpler texts, but even so we caught a couple of obvious mistranslations:
At the Leopold Museum's show on the Vienna art scene up to 1918 the English translation of a note on the origins of WW I said the Sarajevo assassination was due to the ultimatum issued from Austria to Serbia.
Since the ultimatum of course followed the assassination, either the German original was strangely wrong or the translator had a shaky knowledge of modern history.
At the Belvedere, in the show celebrating Gustav Klimt and the Kunstschau 1908, the English legend under a costume design by Emil Orlik said it was "a design for Shakespeare's 'Das Wintermärchen'". That is, the English label gave Shakespeare's title in German. The correct translation should have been "a costume design for Shakespeare's The Winter Tale", or perhaps "... for a German staging of the Winter Tale".
The problem here is not so much the mistranslations themselves: one can usually get a laugh with some of the mistranslations found in shops or tourist sites around the world. These, at least, have the excuse of being written by people with little knowledge of English for their own little shop.
But when one finds such errors in a city that justly prides itself as one of the foremost cultural capitals of the world, and in shows otherwise set up with much care, it is discouraging to see how little attention is paid to translation, how clearly an afterthought it is, how cheap it is bought. It likely cost more to produce the high-quality lettering proudly displaying such howlers than was paid for the translations themselves.
Major cultural institutions as the Leopold Museum and the Belvedere (and others around the world) should budget a little more, and give more thought to avoid such embarrassing mistakes.