The English is okay, but the Welsh actually reads: “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.”
Officials wanted a sign translated so it would read in both English and Welsh and thought the automatic reply they received was the translation. As one person in the story puts it: “When they’re proofing signs, they should really use someone who speaks Welsh.”
They were using someone that speaks Welsh. Unfortunately they got a reply back in Welsh saying to send in the material to be translated to Welsh. This point is apparently forgotten by the time the journalist gets to making the statement you quoted. More likely it was not quoted in the correct place and belonged by the other examples near the end of the article. It makes sense when speaking of the other signs.
The quote that stands out for me is the naivety of this: “Everything these days seems to be written first in English and then translated. Ideally, they should be written separately in both languages.” Yup, that’s certainly a recipe for avoiding any confusing or contradictory signs.
I like the part further down that news story where English-speaking pedestrians were told to look right before crossing the road, and Welsh speakers to look in the other direction. Perhaps it was a dastardly plot to wipe-out one section of the community.
If he is an “official” in a place where language has an impact on politics, policy and law (and Wales is definitely such a place!), he may be bound by regulations specifying when one or the other language must be used exclusively. Such regulations are usually intended to promote the use of one language, and almost never designed to facilitate communication between languages.
In such situations, misunderstanding on someone else’s part might result in a comical piece of signage, but a small breach of policy to prevent such misunderstanding could easily get you canned.
I agree with the quote, to an extent. Clearly all efforts should be made to ensure that the same *message *is getting across to readers, but doing literal translations from one language to another can lead to awkward grammar, incorrect word usage, and unintentionally funny/insulting/incomprehensible signs and other written work. It happens often enough here in Québec that the same kind of idea gets applied; write what you want to say, not what was said in another language.
That wasn’t really the case in this story, but the person saying that statement probably comes from the point of view of having seen a lot of Google Translate results for things rather than phrases actually created from the language itself.