"CNN banned from Iran for nuclear translation gaffe"
Thread poster: Edward Potter

Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:20
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 16, 2006


CNN banned from Iran for nuclear translation gaffe

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran on Monday banned CNN journalists from working there after the broadcaster misquoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying Tehran wanted nuclear weapons.

CNN's simultaneous translation of Ahmadinejad's lengthy news conference on Saturday included the phrase "the use of nuclear weapons is Iran's right."

In fact, what the Iranian president said was that "Iran has the right to nuclear energy," the official IRNA news agency reported. CNN later clarified in an apology on Sunday night.

Iran denies any intention of seeking nuclear weapons, saying it wants atomic technology merely for the generation of electricity.

Mohammad Hossein Khoshvaght, director of foreign media at Iran's Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry, welcomed CNN's apology.

"But so far it's not clear whether it was something pre-planned or a mistake," he told state television. "Therefore, we will ban its activities (in Iran) for the timebeing."

He said a restoration of CNN's right to work in Iran would depend on an assessment of the broadcaster's future coverage of the Islamic state.

CNN does not have a permanent bureau in Iran but a local journalist is a contributor to the network and visiting correspondents are occasionally given permission to enter the country on short assignments.

The ban came as CNN's Iranian-born chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour was in Iran to report on the nuclear issue.


BelkisDV  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
The most important aspect of our profession Jan 16, 2006

Most interesting, and not surprisingly so, at least to me. There is a reason for everything and I believe these "blunders" are bringing to light the importance of our profession (Translation and Interpretation).

Christiane Amanpour (sp) has played a vital role in the communication process in that area. She went as far as to film a TV comercial where she pronounces "IRAN" correctly at least 3 times, correcting the person who plays the TV reporter and keeps pronouncing it "I ran" (as in the verb "to run".)

What can a person, a family, a nation lose when the translator or the interpreter fails to deliver the message correctly? Their dignity, their honor, their liberty and sometimes their lives.

Sadly, these events that now affect the entire world, are providing the leaders concrete evidence about the importance of our work, the magnitude of our words and the effect they have when the person that delivers it is not properly trained.

For those who understand Spanish, I remember this anecdote:

There was a battle in X kingdom and the King sent a note to the battlefield. At that time he had to rely on a scribe to convey his message. The King's message was as follows: "Matadle NO,
dejadle vivir." The scribe wrote: "Matadle, NO dejadle vivir".

I have no idea whether is true or not, if it is...someone was killed because of a misplaced comma.icon_frown.gif



Monika Coulson  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:20
Member (2001)
English to Albanian
+ ...
Interpreter fired Jan 17, 2006

According to CNN today:
The translation company, Lesley Howard Languages, apologized to CNN.

"Obviously, we're taking it very, very seriously. We will never use him again," said owner Lesley Howard, referring to the interpreter.

She said the same interpreter, who like other interpreters is contracted for individual projects, has done good work in the past, including for CNN.

She added that there is no reason to believe the interpreter purposely gave the wrong translation.

"We pride ourselves on having incredibly high standards," Howard said.


What a sad story, I can sympathize with the interpreter. I am almost sure he is an experienced interpreter (I do not know him though, just a guess) and I am sure that it was an honest mistake (I really doubt that it was premeditated.)


[Edited at 2006-01-17 01:26]


Mario Cerutti  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:20
Italian to Japanese
+ ...
All human beings make mistakes Jan 17, 2006

Belkis Díaz-Vidaillet wrote:
...the magnitude of our words and the effect they have when the person that delivers it is not properly trained.

Even the most trained translator or interpreter makes mistakes, as all humans do, including politicians, doctors, scientists, and the like. However, for the most part, errors made by translators and interpreters can be corrected well before they can cause irreparable damages to the world, the honour of a single country or the business of a company.

Mario Cerutti


Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:20
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Very tough job Jan 17, 2006

The guy was probably not getting paid enough anyway. My first reaction was that it is very likely an honest mistake. There seems to be a lot of distrust out there. It sounds like the poor guy is getting tarred and feathered because of other people's politics.


Marie Gomes
Local time: 00:20
English to French
+ ...
Update - Iran's President allows CNN back in Jan 17, 2006



Balttext  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:20
English to Latvian
+ ...
Tough job Jan 17, 2006

Sure, it is a tough job, and I can only try to imagine under what pressure the interpreter was working at that event, however,....
there is a huge linguistic (and political) difference between what was said and what was interpreted.

Yes, we naturally seek something to justify the mistake of a fellow interpreter, but I can't imagine any top-level interpreter working at that level to mix up 2 totally different concepts. It just means that the person was not up to the task, could not deal with the stress or something like that.

These are the kind of things wars ar started over, so even if I sympatize with the interpreter, I do feel that the company hiring him/her was not doing their job on checking the person. I mean, the consequences could have been much more terrible. In that kind of situation you would want somebody to interpret whom you trust completely, as if your life depended on it, because sometimes it really could...


Karolina Katsika
Local time: 09:20
French to Greek
+ ...
CNN banned from Iran for nuclear translation gaffe Jan 17, 2006

I think that perhaps the poor interpreter is just the scapegoat of the whole story. An information pass also by journalists, directors, etc. and it wouldn't be the first time that an information is distorted.


Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:20
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Brainwashing... Jan 17, 2006

maybe the interpreter had been watching too much American TV before flying to Iran...icon_wink.gif



Local time: 10:20
Member (2006)
English to Swahili
+ ...
Communication is difficult. Jan 17, 2006

I sympathize with the interpreters it's difficult, it is sometimes hard to understand a person's point of view in the same language. Throw in two languages, two cultures, dignitories and politics, and misunderstanding is sure to follow.

[Edited at 2006-01-23 13:09]

[Edited at 2006-01-23 13:13]


Konstantin Kisin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:20
Member (2004)
Russian to English
+ ...
potentially costly mistake Jan 18, 2006

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL wrote:

maybe the interpreter had been watching too much American TV before flying to Iran...icon_wink.gif


LOL, yep, I suspect it was a bit of a Freudian slip...yes, we all make mistakes but that sort of mistake could cost 10s of thousands of people their lives.


Omar Osman
Local time: 09:20
English to Somali
+ ...
Any Farsi Translators here. Jan 18, 2006

No Farsi translator has put any comment on this. I would be curious to hear their comment. Maybe they can get the text of the speech and see if it was a "mistake". Are the word for Energy and Weapon the same in Farsi? Beside that is the most important crux of the problem for Iran, weapons or energy? It will be surprising that the interpreter didn't get that point right... but it is possible!

[Edited at 2006-01-18 02:14]


Rahi Moosavi  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:20
Member (2004)
Farsi (Persian) to English
+ ...
Farsi words Jan 18, 2006

I haven't heard the speech myself but "Energy" and "Weapon" are expressed with two totally different words in Farsi, it's quite impossible to mistake them.

Ban is lifted anyhow.

[Edited at 2006-01-19 04:43]


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