Simultaneous interpretation is the best way to communicate effectively with an audience that doesn’t speak our native language. It is because of this profession that we can hold international deals, ONG summits and diplomatic relationships.
But, what happens when the translator makes a mistake? It may happen, since simultaneous interpretation requires a lot of work and non-prepared professionals can fail to get the information correctly.
Whatever the reasons, let’s laugh a bit and see what can happen when translation services fail:
One of the most famous (and embarrassing) bloopers of translation and simultaneous interpretation services happened a few years ago between the US and Russian governments. On that occasion (2009) former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a meeting in Geneva with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in order to foster the relationship between the two countries.
In front of the TV cammeras, Clinton offered a gift, a “reset button” to simbolize letting in the past decades of friction. However, there was one problem. The button was intended to say “reset” in Russian, but the translator made a mistake and put the wrong word.
It was minsiter Lavrov who noted the mistake: “You got it wrong, it should be ‘perezagruzka’, this says ‘peregruzka’ which means ‘overcharged’”.
Simultaneous interpretation or simultaneous interruption?
Aside from information, one of the biggest challenges in simultaneous interpretation is to avoid interrupting the person that is speaking. For instance, you can ask the interpreters of Miss Universe 2015 about it. They were highly criticized because during the contest they kept interrupting the candidates and translating sentences completely wrong.
No, you’re the translator
Luckily, this is just fiction… we hope. In this sketch by Comedy Central, we can see how wrong a conversation can turn if a translator is not qualified for his job.
Jokes aside, simultaneous interpretation requires highly qualified professionals with vast experience and the knowledge necessary to adapt to all situations.