Off topic: UN blames interpreter's error for report Syria has nuclear facility
Thread poster: Prokop Vantuch

Prokop Vantuch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 14:25
Member (2005)
English to Czech
+ ...
Oct 22, 2007

Be very careful what you say when interpreting... especially when nuclear facilities are concerned

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/914117.html

Prokop


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lingomania
Local time: 22:25
Italian to English
Just goes to show Oct 22, 2007

Hello. I would just like to add that it just goes to show....the ART and SCIENCE of interpreting and translating is NEVER to be taken lightly especially at UN levels!! Unfortunately, the theory that states: "interpreting is not for everyone" is enhanced by this event and other similar events that perhaps do not make it in the news! As I and others like me have stated on proz.com and other boards and forums, interpreting is a question of PRECISE COMMUNICATION AND PASSION.....if a person does not have these 2 'virtues', it is advisable that he / she reviews his position as a pro interpreter.

Rob


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 07:25
English to Russian
+ ...
Just don't play or pretend to play gods Oct 22, 2007

If you (plural) are about to tell me that there is a single interpreter anywhere in the world at any level who had never done any mistakes or missed anything I'll tell you you are lying. Too bad this particular one occured on such a high level.

People going around making mistakes on any given day of their lives, from messing up simple duties of some low-paid jobs to inflicting real bomings are always eager to blame, fire a subordinate or sue a doctor for a single mistake.


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The Misha
Local time: 08:25
Russian to English
+ ...
I'm with Irene on this one Oct 22, 2007

What is it they said in the scriptures? Those of you who are without sin be the first to throw the stone. Something like that.

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John Farebrother  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
French to English
+ ...
Typical of UN Oct 22, 2007

Blame is almost as prevalent as incompetence in the UN.

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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 07:25
Spanish to English
Inappropriate use of simultaneous interpretation? Oct 22, 2007

I'm not an interpreter but I think there is a general lack of understanding about what an simultaneous interpreter can do.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I have been told and logic dictates that a simultaneous interpreter is neither able nor should be expected to give a perfect legally binding translation. However, it seems that many organizations that use them don't seem to be aware of this limitation and use simultaneous interpretation inappropriately. This seems to be a case in point.


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Sally Quinn  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:25
Member (2005)
French to English
+ ...
Haaretz? Oct 22, 2007

Having worked if only very briefly for an international organization, most delegate comment, even if it appears "simultaneous" to the public, is prepared well in advance. In general, interpreters received a text as well.

Moreover, Israel has been issuing a lot of disinformation on this matter. I would be circumspect...

[Edited at 2007-10-22 18:54]


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Jonathan Sanders  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:25
Whatever Oct 22, 2007

It's always very easy to blame the interpreter. Is this a bad interpreter or is this an interpreter who got caught out on one mistake on one bad day? That can happen, and does happen, to anyone no matter how talented they are.

lingomania wrote:

Hello. I would just like to add that it just goes to show....the ART and SCIENCE of interpreting and translating is NEVER to be taken lightly especially at UN levels!! Unfortunately, the theory that states: "interpreting is not for everyone" is enhanced by this event and other similar events that perhaps do not make it in the news! As I and others like me have stated on proz.com and other boards and forums, interpreting is a question of PRECISE COMMUNICATION AND PASSION.....if a person does not have these 2 'virtues', it is advisable that he / she reviews his position as a pro interpreter.

Rob


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:25
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Another opinion Oct 25, 2007

Sally Quinn wrote:
Having worked if only very briefly for an international organization, most delegate comment, even if it appears "simultaneous" to the public, is prepared well in advance. In general, interpreters received a text as well.

Moreover, Israel has been issuing a lot of disinformation on this matter. I would be circumspect...

[Edited at 2007-10-22 18:54]


The material received well in advance by the interpreters does not necessarily correspond to what is being said. In fact, longer the elapsing period, less likely it is to be correct, because subsequent events alter the perspective of the speaker, prompting him/her to change things when delivering their comments.

The above article is quoting the UN and SANA, and finishing with a cautionary note: We need to get more clear information.... We ought to be just as circumspect as they are when expressing our opinion so readily about anybody's reliability.


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Katalin Sandor  Identity Verified
Hungary
Local time: 14:25
English to Hungarian
+ ...
If anything goes wrong, blame the interpreter. It that does not work, blame the cleaner. Oct 29, 2007

I do quite a bit of interpreting. Here is a story.
I was working for the government of my country, translating for a mission from an international organization (I do not mean to sound self-important, but I am not supposed to name names even years later, as you will know).
The mission wanted to find out how Hungary was performing, going round umpteen ministries and talking to various agencies. I was with them all the time as interpreter. On the last day of the mission, there was a debriefing meeting organized by the coordinating ministry.
Coordinating Minister said (me translating):
" We hear that you came away from ministry X thinking that Minister X said "white". Now, Minister X cannot have said "white", because it is in fact "black", which Minister X is surely aware of. Therefore, it must have been due to interpretation error that you though Minister X said "white" while he actually said "black".
Delegation said yeah, sure (not in those words, of course).
I translated the whole thing without batting an eyelid.
Everybody knew what it was all about. That Minister X did not know what he was talking about (or let something slip that he was not supposed to), but you cannot say that about a minister. Blaming the interpreter is an accepted was of saving face in diplomacy. This could be the case in the Syria incident as well (or maybe not, but has the principle of the presumption of innocence been abandoned since I last checked?).
I would have thought that translators knew better than to buy this sort of c**p at face value even if the general public does. Oh well...
KS


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Aymeric de Poyen Bellisle  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 13:25
English to French
+ ...
By the way Nov 24, 2007

Hello,

Two things that the article doesn't say :
-The Syrian delegate was interpreted into French by an Arab interpreter, who was then taken on relay from French into English by the interpreter who made the mistake.
-The interpreter who made that mistake is (or maybe was) a high-ranking and usually extremely competent interpreter. So yes, it can happen to anybody...

[Modifié le 2007-11-24 18:21]


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UN blames interpreter's error for report Syria has nuclear facility

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