News – Interpreting Obama

The Moscow Times today highlights the difficulties facing simultaneous interpreters, looking specifically at the live translation of Barrack Obama’s inaugural speech. Obama’s citation of ‘hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism’ was relayed in one feed as ‘трудолюбие и честность, отвага и справедливость, терпимость и интерес к миру, преданность и патриотизм’ (diligence and honesty, courage and justice, tolerance and interest in the world, devotion and patriotism) and in another as ‘работа и честность, смелость, ответственность, лояльность и патриотизм’ (work and honesty, courage, responsibility, loyalty and patriotism).

These were obviously minor variations. Elsewhere, though, Obama commented on ‘a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant’. This was translated as ‘человек, отец которого приехал в эту страну и которому ещё 60 лет назад не разрешили бы работать в ресторане’ (a man whose father came to this country and who even 60 years ago would not have been allowed to work in a restaurant), indicating the importance of understanding and translating words in their holistic context rather than individually.

Other mistakes arose from mishearings: ‘cling to power through corruption’ was translated as ‘climb to power through corruption’, and ‘dissent’ was confused with ‘decency’.

All this emphasises how crucial it is to get interpreting right. Clearly these minor aberrations had little impact, as the translation was for information only. However, it is easy to imagine how such errors would adversely affect business negotiations.

Such attention to detail and commitment to accuracy are why Global Lingo is London’s leading provider of interpreting services. We first ensure that our interpreters possess the highest levels of qualifications and experience, before putting in place all the support they need to do a perfect job. This means we provide high-end equipment such as wireless microphones and soundproof booths, and for simultaneous interpreting we assemble the best team for any meeting.

It was this tradition of excellence that led Global Lingo to provide interpreters for the 12-week inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, and to pioneer the development of an innovative simultaneous telephone interpreting service.

To find out more about interpreting, please do not hesitate to contact Global Lingo at any time.