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The world's worst interpreter?

We rely on the folks at the Übersetzungsfehler blog for a good bit of our translation-related entertainment (see examples 1, 2, 3, and 4).

While their blog normally deals with written translations, they (lucky) made an exceptions for this gem:

If you don't speak German, you should go find somebody who does - it's worth the effort.

My favorite part starts around the 1:25 minute mark. La Toya Jackson, accepting an award to posthumously honor her late brother Michael, said "You know that ... he was giving actually to 39 charities."

The intrepid interpreter rendered this as "Sie wissen ... er gab uns 39 ..." - and that was it!

Not only did he not know how to listen and speak at the same time (admittedly a difficult but essential part of simultaneous interpreting), he mistakenly turned "he was giving to" into "he gave us", and he couldn't think of the German word for "charities". And so it went for the rest of La Toya's speech.

The interpreter was probably selected on the basis of "speaking English" and coming at a low (or zero) cost. But given his obvious lack of any interpreting skill, that minimal cost quickly turned into a huge liability. I can only imagine the whincing or befuddlement of the TV audience and the anger of the Jacksons' managers after learning of this debacle!

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  1. bub said...
    It sounds very similar to the interpreter when Mrs. Clinton was in a forum and the question was what does the president think about certain policy and the interpreter asked what does "Mr. Clinton" think abiout the policy. That made Mrs. Clinton, Secreatry of State extremly upset and angry. Not having the correct interpreter is a HUGE liability! Cheap does not mean efficient!

    Veronica Mehno
    DawnM said...
    It sounds like the interpreter is not very accustomed to simultaneous interpretation - but Ms. Jackson is also talking really fast.... Without question, a more experienced interpreter would have helped - but the person giving the speech should probably be educated, too. Another example of a disastrous lack of forethought.

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