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Linguaholic

Ever hear an interpreter get it wrong?


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I worked in the world of insurance and customer service for years. We were required to use an interpreting service for calls with people who didn't speak English or requested it. At times, the Spanish-speaking interpreters were terrible. A few times, I could tell they were struggling to communicate with the other person on the line and had to interrupt the process.

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How about that guy at Nelson Mandela's service!

He was suppose to do everything in sign language but it has been proved that he was just making random hand movements and none of it made sense. The guy reckons he was in a schizophrenic state and angels were talking to him. 

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Quite interesting. . .

Unless someone is bilingual then s/he can't make a good interpreter.

I've, more than once heard interpreters make mistakes but they just go on like nothing happened. I don't know, maybe they just presume everyone in the room doesn't know both languages. . .

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Quite interesting. . .

Unless someone is bilingual then s/he can't make a good interpreter.

Why on earth not? I know plenty of good interpreters who aren't.

Sadly one does find less than competent interpreters out there. But you have to keep in mind, it's a very though job and errors are natural to occur. They have to think fast and often in antecipation - I find it's often most useful to have better knowledge of the topic of the conversation being interpreted than of the languages it's in.

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Not really get it wrong, but if I remember correctly, I was watching the Ms. Universe pageant and the interpreter seems confused and can't keep up with what the contestant is saying. Of course it's not a language that I understand, so I can't really tell if the interpretation was correct or not.

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Not exactly interpreters, not that I remember anyway, but I have often found mistakes or little slip-ups by television hosts who are reporting on an on-going live event. I realize that the dynamics of translating something that is going on right now, on live Television, in-front of millions of viewers must put a lot of pressure on you, so it's kind of understandable. But then there are errors in subtitles television series and even mistakes when transcribing foreign speeches in big-budget English language movies, and I think that's just pathetic.

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I witnessed one of this case in which the interpreter ruins it all rather than help.

This happened on a TV show in which the host apologized for her little knowledge in the guest's language and therefore an interpreter was by their side but mostly to decorate the scene because at the very end the host had to figure out how to interview the guest on her own due to the multiple mistakes of the interpreter.

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I'm actually scared right now, because lately I've noticed I'm not interpreting things right (I think).  I swear I heard my guy said something the other day, but he swears he said a totally different thing.  I mean... wtf!? What's wrong with me?! 

I might have a hearing problem, I guess.  But seriously, I hear the things in a way sometimes, the words and everything... and then I'm told it was a totally different thing!  I believe that can be considered a huge interpretation issue???

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I think it does happen and I remember some of the examples above like at the Miss Universe pageant.  The task though of the interpreter is daunting when you think they are listening, interpreting, speaking (while often times the person being interpreted starts speaking again) and still listening for any more comments.  I do not blame the person speaking since they do not understand when the interpreter is translating and if there is no clear cue that the sentence is done being translated, the person often starts up again.  That is a lot of multi tasking and memory for an interpreter so if there are "mistakes"  I think it is the result of the speed this is all going on with.  I think it would be a tough, and sometimes thankless job.

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How about that guy at Nelson Mandela's service!

He was suppose to do everything in sign language but it has been proved that he was just making random hand movements and none of it made sense. The guy reckons he was in a schizophrenic state and angels were talking to him.

The interpreter at Nelson Mandela's service provided comics around the world with great material!  I could not believe him. Who in their right mind would accept a job to interpret to deaf people and not have this skill down pat.  Then, he sorta apologized, but defended himself.  He really has a lot of gall.

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I have attended many conferences where there are English speakers and Spanish translators. Sometimes I like to hear the translation and have found many mistakes. When translators do not know the technical jargon they may try to make it up or even avoiding to translate what was said.

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Yes, a few times in my company last time. My employer deals with Chinese business partners and will often get a translator when in meetings. The translator will sometimes get the meaning wrong because he couldn't find the correct translation for some of the Chinese words.

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Well, recently there was this speech from Obama and there was this one guy interpreting the things Obama said into Sign Language and he got it all wrong, that was kinda weird! Has anyone of you seen this or at least heard about it?

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I am not sure if this counts, but I know both English and Bulgarian. My girlfriend in Bulgaria did not know English so we had to use subtitle on movies we watched. There have been times when I was thinking to my self, this has nothing to do with what her just said.  :laugh:

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was watching an interview (English audio, Arabic interpreter) once and I noticed the interpreter was getting quite a few things wrong, I thought it was funny until about halfway through when things got really messed up and I realized the interpreter was messing up things on purpose (it was an infamous political figure speaking). It ended up on the news the next day and the people who messed up the interview lost a lot of credibility, it was a really stupid move and I have no idea why they thought they could pull it off, I mean we have basic English as part of our public education system.

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I ran into the same issue of interpreters saying the wrong thing when I worked for a customer service company. We used a translation service. It is hard to say what the problem could have been. I know our interpreters sometimes had troubles with the different dialects, and different accents. I would imagine it would be the same as in the states where a person from California doesn't always understand a guy from Kentucky.

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