What started as an idea designed to help integrate immigrants into the local community backfired horrifically for Landskrona town council, after native Arabic speakers complained that the free brochure that landed on their doormats did not make any sense.
Ali Alabdallah, a journalist from Syria who recently located to Sweden, told the town's newspaper Landskrona Posten, which broke the story:
“As a journalist and Landskrona resident, I am always careful to read all the information I get at home.”
He added: “The text was incomprehensible. Perhaps they have used Google Translate. I do not know how they got it to look the way it does.”
The newspaper then contacted five other Arabic speakers who confirmed that the text did not make any sense.
The press officer for the town, Louise Jönsson, who organized the brochures, told The Local on Thursday that she was “very embarrassed” by the error and explained that new, correct leaflets were being distributed.
According to Jönsson, she got a reputable translator to write a short summary of activities in the town in Arabic. She believes the text then got scrambled at the printers.
“We think the computer programme couldn't handle text written in different characters,” she said.
What is devastating for Jönsson is that she had a hunch that the Arabic text wasn't right.
“I suspected it wasn't correct when I got the first proof back from the printers so I got approval again from the translator and sent it back to the printers again. Then I showed the second [proof] copy to a colleague at the library who also speaks Arabic and they said it was okay,” she explained.
“Two weeks later I got an email back from them saying it actually wasn't right, but by then it was too late,” she sighed.
Asked if she had confronted the librarian about the error she answered: “No…maybe she was stressed or just looked at it quickly on her phone or something. We haven't talked about it. We just have to move on, do it right and be even more careful in future.”
The leaflets also included summaries of sport and cultural activities written in Albanian and Bosnian – the two other most commonly spoken languages by immigrants in the region.
“We have a lot of things in the town…museums, libraries, bathing places and a sports centre. We just included a short summary in other languages for the first time as part of a 20 page booklet. We hoped it would be a good start,” said Jönsson.