By Rachid Acim
By Rachid Acim
Morocco World News
Beni Mellal, September 1, 2012
Many centuries ago, Aristotle observed : «Human beings are by nature political animals»; they like to be with politicians, talk about politics, delve into political affairs and enact political roles every day. This claim is somewhat true because human beings have a wide variety of strategies to turn their conversations, speeches and rhetorical dialogues for their own benefits.
Politics is, thus, exerting a considerable influence on the behavior, as well as the minds of people.
Lots of examples attest to the way public speakers and politicians invert and subvert the content of their talk in order to both persuade and influence their audiences. To this end, emotive expressions and phrases are often used and frequently quoted to stir the audience feelings; speakers can likewise help in gaining their support and approval of what is happening worldwide.
Mistranslation can be one way – one stratagem – among many other ways.
Due to translational techniques such as reduction, condensation, deletion, expansion and addition, much of what is said in the Source Text (ST) is more likely to be lost in the Target Text (TT).
Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman have noted that mistranslation is sometimes intentional, and that falsification and mistranslation for political purposes sometimes occur.
Intentional or unintentional mistranslation can result in more serious problems. It can lead to states of conflict, diplomatic crises and a communication breakdown between nations and countries. You may agree, in this respect, that many people have been jailed, killed and persecuted for a particular mistranslation that occurred owing to the bad intervention of a translator.
Let’s consider for example Mohamed Morsi’s speech at the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Iran. His historical speech is not the same as the one that has been broadcast on national television and radio stations to the Iranian citizens.
President Morsi’s speech has been completely distorted. Many media analysts and experts in Iran and outside Iran argued that the official stations were deceiving home viewers/listeners by adapting the original version to fit in with the Iranian regime’s rhetoric. Put simply, Al-Assad’s regime should not be criticized and held accountable for the state of bloodshed in Syria, and the Shiite tenets should not be touched or ignored in any given political speech addressed to the Iranian public. And since Syria is a strong ally to Iran, it should not be targeted.
The Iranian official TV network creatively managed to delete many phrases from Morsi’s speech seen as hostile to Al-Assad’s regime. Morsi’s reference to bloodshed was overlooked. One media analyst wrote: «in an unprecedented action, the interpreter falsified part of Morsi’s speech declining to translate Morsi’s severe attack on the Syrian president’s regime ».
The interpreter rendered Morsi’s speech in favor of Al-Assad’s regime. He said for example, «There is a crisis in Syria and we must support the ruling regime in Syria».
«It would be appropriate if reforms in Syria were renewed and that there is no external interference, that is our stance, » he continued to add.
Also, when Morsi discussed how the Arab Spring toppled the regimes of many Arab countries, the interpreter mediated to substitute Syria for Bahrain. This falsification of Morsi’s speech suggests that the interpreter has received instructions from the highest authorities in his country.
It also shows that any translation that may occur in political settings is prone to be biased and inaccurate. The interpreter is subject to different constraints, like time, equivalency and language itself. There are thousand culture bound terms that are left untranslatable.
We have all watched how Gaddafi’s long political speech at the U.N. in 2009 made his interpreter faint. Other factors that can affect the translational product have to do with the selection of words and the proficiency of the translator/interpreter in both languages.
There is, therefore, a great fear that specific words, more loaded culturally and semantically, should be employed to achieve certain ideological ends. Think of «Shoah», «Shahada », « jihad »…etc. These words have been so debatable and translators can hardly find adequate equivalents for them.
Although the translation agency can be so creative in the language, from and into which they translate, lots of questions arise and remain unanswered: Who translates? And how does one proceed in this process to engender a translational product that is not an exact replica of the original, but an approximate version devoid of any bias or ideological interference.
As Foucault once puts it: «Knowledge is power ». Now lots of knowledge is embedded in (mis)translation. The intentional misinterpretation of Morsi’s discourse comes as a reminder that we don’t have to always believe in the translation we receive at face value.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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