There is no shortage of political or diplomatic incidents in international archives caused by mistranslations, often due to false friends. Some blunders, however, are comical rather than harmful.
One such example is cited in John Coleman-Holmes’s book Mâcher du Coton. As a Spanish speaker once started to address the delegates of a conference by saying “Please excuse me, I have a cold”, the French side suddenly burst into laughter. Curious as to the cause of this hubbub, the rest of the delegation tuned into the French channel, looking towards the interpreters’ booths. In a lapse of concentration, the Spanish-to-French interpreter had translated “Estoy constipado, perdónadme” as “Excuse me, I’m constipated”.
Mistakes (and painful embarrassment) happen to us all…
This is brilliant irony: “The attorney general has been urged to bring contempt of court proceedings against the private contractor awarded a monopoly to provide interpreters to all courts in England and Wales.”
Here are a couple of examples as to why: one suspect remanded in custody in one prison had to rely on a second suspect from another prison to translate proceedings, and “The Commons justice select committee has been told a court resorted to Google’s online computer translation because no Lithuanian interpreter could be found.”
And Crispin Blunt persists in defending that all is well.
Read the full Guardian article.
There have been endless reports on the chaos in courts throughout the country following the new agreement between the Ministry of Justice and ALS for the provision of interpreting in court. (See BBC report). As a result, petitions have gone round, and a demonstration took place in London this afternoon from the MoJ to the Commons.
In anticipation of this protest, Today’s programme this morning reported that Minister of Justice Crispin Blunt claimed that interpreters earned a 6-figure income. Where does this information come from? Does anyone know?
Only this week, the ITI and the CIOL published the “2011 Rates and Salaries Survey for Translators and Interpreters”, which states that “the median gross income for full-time freelancers is … £31,000”, for translators and interpreters together. That’s before tax, national insurance, and the cost of running your own business. Six-figure income!?
Since the aim of this contract is to save money and it’s actually doing the opposite, there will come a point when the MoJ will have to face the music and revert back to using the national register. And the sooner the better! Meanwhile, the mess proves that there is more to interpreting than being able to chat in a couple of languages.