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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