Aug 29, 2012

Competition: Name the languages on the Yarra Trams posters

Lauren Gawne writes: As part of the ongoing campaign Yarra Trams to remind Melbournians that trams are heavy things these posters have been popping up all over

Lauren Gawne

Lauren is a Postdoctoral Reserach Fellow, currently at NTU Singapore. She works on Tibeto-Burman languages, gesture and LOLcats, but generally not all at once. When not hanging out at Fully (Sic) she can be found at

Lauren Gawne writes:

As part of the ongoing campaign Yarra Trams to remind Melbournians that trams are heavy things these posters have been popping up all over town:

Can you name all 25 of the languages? The Fully (sic) team have worked it out but now it’s your turn! The first person in the comments section below to name all 25, in order, wins linguistic acclaim.

If no one names all 25 by Monday 9am we’ll announce the person with the most correct answers as our winner. If the image above is too small to read check out this downloadable version here.

As far as we can tell, these words are all variations on “caution” or “pay attention” (“beware is a delightfully archaic little English word that probably deserves a post of its own). If you speak one of these languages is there anything unusual about the choice of word? Spelling mistakes? How would you say “beware” in your own language if it’s not on the list? Do share!

(Thanks to our Esteem’d Editor Aidan Wilson for the image, and to Will Steed for figuring out many of the languages.)

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17 thoughts on “Competition: Name the languages on the Yarra Trams posters

  1. Alex

    Gotta ask: if a tram weighs as much as 30 rhinos, why have they put just 25 on the poster? Is it because rhino numbers are down, or are they just not…(wait for it)…game enough! (boom! Boom!)

    One more:

    Q: Did you hear the one about the two rhinos that ran off a cliff?
    A: Boom! Boom!

    That’s all folks!

  2. William Steed

    I think everyone’s agreed that someone dropped the ball completely with the Braille. I tried looking at other languages’ Braille systems, and none of them that I checked (Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese) could possibly be it.

    The Spanish “Advertencia” is more like “Notice” (which would then be followed by text that you’re supposed to read), rather than a warning. If it were “Advertência” it would be the same for Portuguese. I agree that “Atención” is a better translation.

    For Japanese, I agree with Andrew, that 注意 is more common, but then it would be undistinguishable from the Chinese, so they probably put it on there with する to fill out the languages.

    The Korean example, 조심하게, I suspect is typically just 조심, judging my googling results (조심, I think, corresponds to Chinese 注心).

  3. Licia

    Italian ATTENZIONE is correct.
    Incidentally, I’d love to see a post on beware, a verb that is quite difficult to master for non-native speaker, as shown by this Beware of long clothes example.

  4. Lauren Gawne

    Alon sent us these thoughts via skateboarding rhino:

    for some reason, I can’t register with Crikey to post, so I’ll resort
    to email. The Spanish in the poster is definitely odd; the usual
    choice is ‘Atención’ (e.g.,,
    analogous to Italian ‘Atenzione’.

  5. Andrew J

    I worked it all out, but too slow.

    A typical Japanese sign would say ご注意ください if not 注意.
    Faites attention (French) is unusual language for a sign.
    I think the Turkish should have a dot on the i.
    An Indian friend suggests that the Hindi should have an “uu” vowel sign on the last letter.
    The apostrophe in the Vietnamese is really a hook on the
    I can’t make sense of the Braille at all.

    注意 – Chinese
    LET OP – Dutch
    BABALA – Tagalog
    VORSICHT – German
    ΠΡΟΣΟΧΗ – Greek
    ADVERTENCIA – Spanish
    注意する – Japanese
    ⠆⠺⠯⠛⠞⠑ – Braille gibberish
    PASOP – Afrikaans
    OPREZ – Croatian
    qIm – Klingon
    إحترس – Arabic
    ATTENZIONE – Italian
    ระวัง – Thai
    COI CHỪNG – Vietnamese
    FAAETEETE – Samoan
    ВНИМАВАЈ – Macedonian
    조심하게 – Korean
    DİKKAT – Turkish
    AWAS – Malay
    सावधान रहू – Hindi
    ПАЖЊА – Serbian
    ОСТОРОЖНО – Russian
    BEWARE – English

  6. Steve Conte

    Okay, wow, Catsidhe. I got 18ish of them, but most were in the vein of “That’s definitely Cyrillic, so must be a Slavic language. And that looks like Thai, but could be Burmese or something. And there’s a Polynesian one in there too- Maori maybe, or Samoan?”
    And I don’t know about you, but I was actually pretty glad NOT to have guessed Klingon. Kick my “cool score” up a notch 😉

  7. dangyman

    The Japanese (middle of the second row) is also not quite right.

    注意する (chuui suru) is the infinitive ‘to pay attention’ rather than the imperative, which would be 注意しろ (chuui shiro) ‘Pay attention’.

    However, this being too blunt for usage in Japanese signs, you normally just see 注意 (chuui) ‘Attention’.

    The problem is, this looks exactly the same as the Chinese 注意 zhuyi. Misses the point if you want to have a poster with various languages on it.

    Incidentally, the Korean seems to be in the infinitive as well but it’s not a language I speak well.

  8. Lauren Gawne

    Come on… we can get further out of (Indo) Europe than than surely?

  9. Aidan Wilson

    I’ve run out fo bonus points to give, Catsidhe. But were they Irish, Latin, Esperanto, Finnish and … Icelandic?

  10. Catsidhe

    * CAVE
    * ATENTU
    * VARAST

  11. Lauren Gawne

    @Indiana Jones I had noticed, but figured that since this was a language blog and not a maths blog I wouldn’t mention it (unless someone knows a scale of conversion where 1 language = 1.2 rhinos?).

    In Polish the customary word is uwaga, and the Nepali is similar to the Hindi सावधान हुनुहोस ‘saabdhaana hunuhos’ (if you were being polite). Someone on the facebook page suggested that the Hindi might be wrong ( can someone confirm that for us?

  12. Greg Dickson

    @Indiana Jones. Ha!

    Now who can guess the 5 languages that *don’t* appear on the poster?

  13. Indiana Jones

    Did anyone else notice that it says at the bottom 30 Rhinos, but that it only has 25 languages?

  14. Aidan Wilson

    I have to admit that we even had a slightly different list that Catsidhe’s, but after careful adjudication, it turns out you are more right that we were. Well done!

    For bonus points, can anyone figure out what the frack is going on with the braille? As far as we can tell it’s a fairly random collection of punctuation and other meta-characters. Maybe it’s some in-joke of Braille, like a speech bubble that reads ¿¡&%$#!.

  15. Greg Dickson

    Too fast! If those are correct Catsidhe you totally deserve a prize!

    For other languages, if it was Kriol, I’d suggest “Lukat!” or “Maindim!” or maybe “Guyu!” but that’s more of an exclamation than an instruction.

  16. Catsidhe

    * Chinese
    * Dutch
    * Filipino
    * French
    * German

    * Greek
    * Spanish
    * Japanese
    * As far as I can tell, Gibberish in Braille
    * Afrikaans

    * Croatian
    * Klingon
    * Arabic
    * Italian
    * Thai

    * Vietnamese
    * Samoan
    * Macedonian (the “J” was the giveaway)
    * Korean
    * Turkish

    * Malay
    * Hindi
    * Serbian
    * Russian
    * English

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