Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Misinterpretation - Funny or Dangerous?

Today I was reading an article on the BBC site about a new book written by a former Australian diplomat. It's a humourous collection of translation gone wrong for former diplomats or politicians. Just by the review of the book (Undiplomatic Activities), it seems chalk full of laughs.

You know me, pessimist within, has taken a look at the other side of the translation-gone-wrong spectrum. Coincidentally (or maybe not), a couple weeks back, I saw a news story about translators in Iraq. A guy from Seattle (American), knew Arab and was called upon by the US government to translate in Iraq. This was before Saddam was pulled from power. He actually worked inside Saddam's palace as a translator. Apparently there was no language test before, they simply asked if you could speak Arab and you were in. While he knew the language well, many other translators brought over did not. He is back in the US now, opposed to the war in Iraq and claims that many translators were unable to translate properly for many politicians. Western diplomats were using phrases like 'cohesive, unified state', making it difficult for translators who might loosely know English or vice versa. If that was a factor in the war that is going on today and that is what the translator is suggesting, you can imagine what a little preparation by the American government could have done for Iraq before rushing into a war.
You know what assuming does...


Tiffany said...

I don't think Bush gave a rats ass about what was really being said. I think he just wanted to run out and bomb some Iraquis. Yep, there, it's known, I truly "dislike" George Bush.

roverT said...

Very interesting! I wish that I knew what ass-u-me'ing does though.