Bad translations in Vienna/Wiener Museen mit schlechtem Englisch

Riccardo Schiaffino, who doesn’t speak German, comments on a visit to Vienna in Saving a few dimes while spending a ton.

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”.

This isn’t purely a Viennese problem. I recall the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg always had the most dreadful English in their exhibitions, on the level of ‘why bother with a translation at all?’ I haven’t been to an exhibition recently, though.

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