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Kyoto accidentally calls all old people 'terrible drivers'

13 Comments
By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

Even in famously polite Japan, the people of Kyoto have a reputation for their highly refined manners. Add in the respect Japan usually shows for senior citizens, and it must have come as quite a surprise to the management of the city’s newly opened Shimogyo Ward Driver’s License Renewal Center to learn their bulletin board was insulting anyone past retirement age.

The center just opened its doors on the first of the month, and located outside the entrance is a digital bulletin board with various notices and useful pieces of information. As a country that prioritizes safety (well, most of the time, anyway), Japanese motorists are required to attend a lecture about safe driving when renewing their licenses. The exact contents of these classes vary depending on your type of license, driving history, and age, so the center made the decision to post the schedules for different lectures on its display board, and was even so helpful as to make the sign partially bilingual by adding a few English translations.

The first group listed was 優良運転者/"yuryo untensha," literally “excellent drivers,” but the sign’s translation of “superior driver” isn’t bad either (the Japanese language doesn’t have plural nouns, after all). The linguistics got quite a bit sketchier for the next group on the sign, though, which was 高齢運転者/"korei untensha."

The kanji 高 and 齢 mean “high” and “age,” so referring to "korei untensha" as “elderly drivers” or “senior drivers” would have been the most natural choices. However, the display board went with a somewhat different rendering:

Terrible driver.

An English-proficient foreigner pointed out the error to the Kyoto Police, who then passed the word along to the license renewal center. The facility has since apologized, saying that a translation mistake was made by the display’s producer.

But how did the translation end up so far off the mark? The only possible explanation that comes to mind is that whoever was responsible for writing the English text didn’t even bother to really translate the name of the second group, and instead assumed it must just be the opposite of the first. So if a "yuryou untensha" is a superior driver, and a "korei untensha" isn’t, then he must be a terrible driver, right?

The incident is particularly embarrassing because the license renewal center’s location, right next to Kyoto Station, means it’s in a position for plenty of international travelers to be passing by its display board. Since being informed of the mistake, the center has replaced “terrible driver” on the sign with “elder driver,” which still isn’t the best translation, but is definitely a big step in the right direction. The center also issued a statement, saying “We deeply apologize for offending the elderly by not taking proper care in confirming the translation’s accuracy.”

By the way, the statement seems to have been issued only in Japanese. While that means it’s of limited use to the people who would have actually noticed and been bothered by the inadvertent insult, it also gracefully sidesteps the potential problem of an English version of the apology mistakenly closing with, “So are you old coots happy now?”

Sources: Yahoo! News Japan/Asahi Shimbun Digital via Golden Times

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- The tricky game of wits that sometimes lurks behind a Kyoto granny’s compliment -- Special subway cars in Kyoto are perfect for travelling anime fans -- Kimono-clad princesses offer their sincere apologies for roadside construction in Kyoto

© http://en.rocketnews24.com/2016/09/22/kyoto-accidentally-calls-all-old-people-terrible-drivers%E3%80%90why-does-engrish-happen-in-japan%E3%80%91/

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13 Comments
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Add in the respect Japan usually shows for senior citizens

This is yet another one of those longstanding and often repeated positive stereotypes of Japan that does not pan out in reality — Japan is the country of Obasute Yama (姨捨山, "dispose of granny mountain") for heaven's sake. Having lived here for many years, I find that in some instances this may be true, but in many other instances the reality is quite the opposite. I also find that there are many countries where elderly citizens are shown much more respect and kindness than in Japan.

Anyway, this 高齢運転者 > terrible driver gaffe has been all over the Japanese press and Twittersphere, and is even popping up in the news overseas. I wouldn't want to be the "translator" who is credited with this work. My guess is that it was a disgruntled employee who thought nobody would notice.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

And yet, somewhat accurate...

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Even in famously polite Japan, the people of Kyoto have a reputation for their highly refined manners.

Kyoto people use politeness to establish hierarchy and belittle others in much the same way as the British upper classes use it on those they perceive to be their social inferiors. In fact, in some ways this gaffe is somewhat consistent with this since the victims would, by dint of ignorance of English in this case, be none the wiser. As the story says, it was not an elderly Japanese that pointed it out.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

An English-proficient foreigner pointed out the error to the Kyoto Police, who then passed the word along to the license renewal center.

Don't you mean A Japanese-proficient foreigner pointed out the error to the Kyoto Police, who then passed the word along to the license renewal center?

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Geez...so it was in Kyoto, and it was about a section of Japanese so the big deal about making an apology about what was probably an honest and unintended error, and corrected when notified.

What the hell about the rest of the "official" English that is crap here and never corrected because it's for show only!!!

IF the rest of the damn country took mistakes like this more seriously MAYBE, just MAYBE one day people here will finally show some respect for the English language and learn how to use it properly BEFORE errors like this occur!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Don't you mean A Japanese-proficient foreigner pointed out the error to the Kyoto Police, who then passed the word along to the license renewal center?

The incorrect text was in English. So the article is likely right, I don't see why they would change the person's nationality and language.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The incorrect text was in English. So the article is likely right, I don't see why they would change the person's nationality and language.

I thought the incorrect text was in Japanese. Thanks for the explaination.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

To be fair, the use of the word 'rendering' made it a little unclear, and the word 'translation' would have been much, much clearer.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

LETS! Terrible translation.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

To be fair, the use of the word 'rendering' made it a little unclear, and the word 'translation' would have been much, much clearer.

Still, you cleared it up so thanks again

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

If you can't differentiate between the accelerator and the brakes, then perhaps the language is acccurate.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you can't differentiate between the accelerator and the brakes, then perhaps the language is acccurate.

The overwhelming majority of older people can make this differentiation. So the language isn't accurate.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Don't you mean A Japanese-proficient foreigner pointed out the error to the Kyoto Police, who then passed the word along to the license renewal center?

While the text was in English, whomever it was that pointed it out would have had to been able to read the Japanese kanji to know that the translation was incorrect. There are plenty of "bad" drivers in Japan.

I don't see why they would change the person's nationality and language.

What are you talking about?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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