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Lost in Translation (Museum Sign: Molested Birds?)

Posted in: Everything Expat, Expats Everywhere, Language Learning

There are words that we understand in English to have a broad meaning, but have come to have just one specific meaning. Take, for example, the word: molested.

At a recent trip to the Museo Banco Central in Cuenca, my daughter snapped this picture of a sign that she thought looked funny. We were going through her pictures and it really makes me laugh – you know, in an elementary school kind of way.

The sign literally means: Don’t Molest the Birds

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word molested means: to annoy, disturb, or persecute especially with hostile intent or injurious effect. But that’s not the definition that comes to mind when we hear it. In fact, that word is seldom heard in English – we often kind of recoil when we hear it used.

But in Spanish, it actually means: annoy or disturb – and its commonly used in daily conversation. When was the last time you were asked: “Did the taxi driver molest you?”

And with that understanding, its much easier to understand, not only the sign, but also general conversation in Spanish.


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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

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