Wednesday, June 5, 2013
“Translating English into English”: Learning How to Navigate through England
Having come to England once before, I knew some English to English translation would be required during the trip; however since my last trip was over ten years ago, what I didn’t remember was how challenging travel translation can be. In my own defense, my last trip did not require any driving/road navigation so maybe that’s why I had no idea how puzzling driving through England would be. Or maybe London, where I was almost exclusively on my last trip, is simply different from the rest of England. Whatever the reason for the surprising nature of English travel, I’ll describe some of the more interesting experiences I’ve had on the roads of Cornwall.
To start Monday morning, the group had to walk to the Porters’ Lodge in order to take a taxi to the rental car place. This was the first time I had been out walking around on a weekday. Consequently, there were quite a few more cars driving around. As I jumped back onto the curb to avoid the second oncoming car, I realized I kept looking in the wrong direction before crossing the road. Since I look both ways before crossing the street, you wouldn’t think this would be a very big deal. But looking right and then left before crossing the road in England is incredibly helpful in that whole not-getting-hit-by-a-car thing.
So after we actually got in the rental car, I found myself in the very back seat. From back there, driving on the left side of the road didn’t faze me. Then after we stopped for a road map, my Geographic Information Systems skills were called upon, and I became the official navigator. (I should mention here that my GIS skills consistent of one semester, where I primarily learned to make maps on a computer. We did about one day on cartography and absolutely nothing on reading maps.) Now riding in the passenger’s seat, the whole driving on the left side of the road thing was really weird. Every once in a while, I would look up from reading the map as we were making a turn and think, “Oh no! We’re turning onto the wrong side of the road!” Of course, then I would realize we were supposed to be on the left. Despite my limited map-reading skills and constantly reminding myself that we should be on the left side of the road, I did manage to get us to our destination, without any wrong turns.
More comfortable on our drive back, I began to notice more of what was around us as we drove. Here’s where we found the need to translate English into English. We saw a road sign that read, “Changing priorities ahead.” Now, I just think that’s a funny thing to have on a traffic sign, but here it actually indicates that a different lane has right-of-way up ahead. Out in the countryside, we say a sign with a picture of a cow on it that read, “Queuing on the bends.” To be frank, our translation skills have failed us thus far, and no one knows what this sign means. Do the cows queue at the bends? Do cars queue waiting for the cows to cross? I’m not sure, but this sign is not even the best translation incident of the day.
Early on in our ride, several of us thought we heard a cow mooing. I thought it was someone’s cell phone at first, but on the ride back from our site visit, we realized that it was, in fact, the car mooing at us. I also discovered that the car only mooed when a tiny symbol appeared on the screen. After tossing the car’s manual into the backseat for the second time to see if anyone could figure out how to work the in-car navigator, we finally found a small remote. As it turns out, the car’s Tom Tom did work, but it was not a touch screen interface. The mooing noises were actually part of the car’s alert system, and a previous driver had obviously selected that noise because all the other alert noises are so awful.
In conclusion, I’m slowly jumping less and less after realizing we’re on the left side of the road, and my Tom Tom programming skills are improving. We still can’t identify all of the car’s alert symbols, but I think we know enough to continue safely traveling. Mostly though, I’m realizing how incredibly important it is to examine my assumptions, even about something as simple as crossing the street.