Tag Archives: legal translation

Broadway Director Takes on a Play’s Translation Herself

When it comes to true artists, maybe passion and vision are all they need to make a satisfactory translation of a work in another language. Former Broadway star Liv Ullman will be putting that sentiment to the test when she directs her own language interpretation translation of the Norwegian play, A Doll’s House. Instead of using a professional translator or a translated version to develop her script, she will be doing it on her own to apply her own personal thoughts and beliefs about the production. She has a special understanding of the script as it is, because she starred in the show in 1975 on Broadway.

The Play is No Stranger to Translation

A Doll’s House was originally written in Norwegian when it was written by Henrik Ibsen. It premiered in Copenhagen in 1879, and has gone through countless translations and productions around the world since then. When it underwent a German translation, Ibsen’s agent actually made him change the ending so that it would suit German audiences at the time. The show has also been on Broadway in New York City thirteen times, and it even won a Tony award in 1997. In each of these thirteen productions, the play was translated to English in its entirety.

Artistic Translations Have Room for Error

Ullman probably wouldn’t take on the technical translation of a government document or a business translation for an important decision. She is not a professional, and such translations should be left to the professionals. However, a play is a work of art, and it’s always up to the interpretation of the director and actors. Therefore, even if her translation of A Doll’s House is not exactly correct word-for-word, she will still be applying her own style to the piece and the audience will still gain the intended insight by watching it. Luckily, Ullman also has many examples to refer to if she gets stuck since the play has been translated into English so many times.

Artistic translations certainly don’t require as much expertise as legal translations or technical translations, but there’s a good chance Ullman might need help with a word or two along the way. Even if she does seek out professional help on parts of the play where the translation is more difficult because of idioms and context, it will still prove to be an artistic extension of herself after she translates the bulk of it.

Translation Problems Causing Chaos in UK Courts

Professional translators and interpreters are vital members of the court in some cases. If a plaintiff or defendant can’t speak the native language of the country in which they are being tried, the trial will not be fair and the outcome will be meaningless. When those translators fail to translate the hearing accurately or are not present at the ruling, the case becomes much more complicated, and in many cases is delayed for months. If you’ve ever waited with baited breath for a court decision to go through, you know how strenuous that waiting period can be.

The Problems are a Result of Translation Monopoly

Earlier this year, the British Ministry of Justices awarded a company called Applied Language Services (ALS) a monopoly contract for their services. In other words, ALS was set to be the only provider of translators for court rulings in the United Kingdom. The contract was meant to supply UK courts with an endless supply of quality, professional translation experts, but the opposite happened instead. ALS wasn’t paying enough to their experienced translators, so many of them left to continue working on their own outside the courtroom. This has left ALS with very few and very inexperienced translators to send to the courts.

Translators Making Rookie Mistakes

The courtrooms in the UK have been looking less than professional because of the failed monopoly contract with ALS. They have been cancelling hearings the morning of, and in some cases suspects are being released based on the completely incorrect legal translations. Since so many translators have left ALS to find better pay with more reputable companies, ALS is sending in the rookie translators, and they are making horrible mistakes. In some cases, translators don’t even show up. Only 58% of hearings that required a translator in February 2012 were actually supplied with one. The remaining percentage had to simply cancel the hearing or work without one.

If the UK courts don’t end their contract with ALS soon and open up their hearings to professionals from other translation services, they will quickly lose the respect and trust of the general public. Especially for people requiring hearings with a translator, going to the court might seem too risky, and serious crimes might be left unpunished. Without repair, this could be the downfall of the UK court system as a whole, so they should fix the problem as soon as possible.

Translation Error Fuels International Tensions

Although professional translation is an important and useful service, it is never more important than when the words being translated can ease or spur international tensions.  On August 30th, the president of Egypt, Muhammad Morsi, gave a speech which was translated into several languages.  Unfortunately, Farsi interpreters got part of their translation wrong, replacing the word “Syria” with “Bahrain.”  This seemingly minor mistake, made for an entirely different interpretation of what the president was saying, and now the Bahraini government is demanding an apology.

Was the Translation Error a Mistake or a Strategy?

To Bahrain, the mistaken translation included them in the list of Arab states dealing with revolution this past year.  They claim that their crackdown on Shi’ite protestors are not enough to be considered the same as dealing with an all-out revolution.  Iran and Syria though have criticized them for these crackdowns in the past and are fairly open about their stance on the matter.  This has led Bahrain’s state-run news agency to accuse the Iranian media of making the “mistake” on purpose.  They believe it was yet another strategy meant to interfere in their affairs and should be considered “a violation, fabrication, and unacceptable media behavior.”

Bahrain Demands Apology

If such a mistake were made in an important business translation or even a technical legal translation, there would most likely be avid apologies by the translation company for any harm the mistake might have caused.  Because the countries involved don’t agree on the issue of Shi’ite power in the Middle East though, an apology for this particular translation issue is yet to be made.  Bahrain has publicly demanded an apology from Iran’s media and the Iranian officials though, by formally filing a complaint with their government.  However, experts believe an apology is unlikely, especially with all of the tension surrounding Syria and Iran right now.

Even if you’re not using translation services at such a high level as these governments, it may be just as important.  One word could completely change the meaning of an entire conversation or document and could potentially put an end to important business relationships.  That’s why it’s so important to make sure any translation company involved has the experience and knowledge necessary to make accurate translations.

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