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Chinese Censor Obama

This week saw the inauguration of Barack Obama. We thought that the event was admired by people the whole world over… but not true, he did manage to offend someone – the Chinese government.

References to both ‘communism’ and ‘dissent’ were deleted from Chinese translations of the newly appointed president’s speech. The Chinese government are (sadly) well known for omitting media material they feel would cause difficulties or upset in their country but this is taking it one step too far.

During a televised English report of the speech translated into Chinese the state run Chinese Central Television (CCTV), which is the main television broadcaster in mainland China, cut back suddenly to the studio as Obama mentioned ‘communism’. The shows presenter had to think on her feet as she was not expecting the sudden return to air. She quickly asked her Washington correspondent a random question on the US economy.

Chinese television is not usually live so that they have time to edit what is shown. For example during the Beijing Olympics there was a constant 10 second delay as the government were concerned about free-Tibet activists upsetting proceedings.

We think that it is an outrage that a government can cover up and change what was arguably the most important moment in world history.

The people of China (and in fact all people) should have the right to hear other world leaders’ opinions whether their government agree with them or not.

FBI Behind on Translating Intelligence

8 years after 9/11, the FBI is still behind when it comes to translating intelligence information.

According to a report issued by the US Justice Department’s inspector general, the FBI has lost approximately 3 percent of its linguists since 2005. Plus, they are taking longer than ever to hire new contract linguists.

There is a lot of work to be done. According to Reuters, between 2006 and 2008, the FBI collected 4.8 million foreign language documents and intercepts in terrorism and criminal cases and 46 million electronic files. To date, 31 percent of the electronic files have not been examined. Between 2003 and 2005, the FBI collected 4.8 million audio hours worth of material via surveillance campaigns-25% of that material hasn’t been reviewed, either.

Part of the problem seems to stem from the length of time it takes to do the necessary background checks and other reconnaissance on potential translators. Apparently, it takes 14 months to do the necessary reviews and investigations to make sure that the applicants aren’t terrorists themselves.

According to Reuters’ Front Row Washington blog, some of that un-translated material was pertinent to a case against two Chicago men who planned to attack a newspaper in Denmark. Affidavits in the case state that:

“While translators have attempted to transcribe the foreign language conversations accurately, to the extent that quotations from these communications are included, these are preliminary, not final translations.”

So, what would it take to get the FBI caught up? 100 linguists working 40 hours a week for seven years, according to the inspector general’s report.

So, if you’re looking for a recession-proof job and you think you can pass an extremely detailed background check, here is my suggestion: Start learning Arabic!

Hillary Clinton Translation

Clinton in Translation Faux Pas

Sergei Lavrov had a laugh at Hilary Clinton on Friday when she gave him a small token gift.

Hilary Clinton the US Secretary of State met with Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov to discuss how the US and Russia can ‘reset’ relations.

Mrs Clinton handed Sergi Lavrov a small box which had a button inside, this was a token gift to represent the ‘resetting’ of relations between the two countries. The button had the word ‘reset’ printed on it and a Russian translation was printed underneath.

As reporters watched Clinton assured Lavrov that her staff had worked hard to get the translation right. Unfortunately it was wrong, Lavrov smiled as he pointed this out to the US Secretary of State.

The Americans had chosen the Russian word ‘peregruzka’ which means ‘overloaded’ or ‘overcharged’ rather than ‘reset’.

Despite some embarrassment the two of them laughed it off in front of the media. They both pushed the button together to signify their shared hopes for a better relationship in the future.

Later that day at a news conference the two of them joked together about the mistake.

The BBC reported Lavrov as saying through his interpreter, “We have reached an agreement on how ‘reset’ is spelled in both Russian and English – we have no more differences between us.”

Mrs Clinton managed to turn her mistake around in her speech saying, “we are resetting, and because we are resetting, the minister and I have an ‘overload’ of work.

Perhaps Hilary Clinton’s staff should have looked into proofreading. Once a translation has been done the proofreader will check that both the translation and the context are correct.

It seems the light hearted gift didn’t do the relationship any harm and hopefully any future translations by the US government will be checked.

President Obama

President Obama in Controversy over Healthcare Translation Policy

Accoring to various news reports there is controversy in the USA this week over ‘ObamaCare’ policies which state proposed healthcare reform plans which include providing on site interpreters for patients who have limited English. The healthcare reform legislation is currently pending in Congress.

English language advocates are up in arms as this could add a significant increase to the cost of healthcare in the USA and they believe it will discourage foreign immigrants from learning English. Surely, in today’s multicultural society the provision of translation services to medical institutions is essential.

America needs to look at itself and its history to see that America was made what it is today by foreign settlers who didn’t all speak English and certainly not American English!

Have some respect for your history and accept the fact that not everyone speaks English. The Spanish for example were one of the first European settlers in the US in 1513. Surely they have a right to speak Spanish if they wish to do so. America is meant to be the ‘Land of the Free’ after all.

Yes it seems logical that if you move to an English speaking country you should learn the lingo but even if you do, when your child is dying in A&E (sorry America suppose that’s ER to you) you may not be able to express what is wrong in your second language. To be sure the patient or their guardian fully understands what is happening it is essential that adequate language translation services are provided.