Translation Blunder at the highest level

February 19, 2015

In 1977, US President Jimmy Carter traveled to Poland to hold the United States’ first-ever news conference in a communist country.  Still reeling from communist threats, this visit was a significant event, one that needed to be met with equal care and grace. But that’s not how it went.

 

President Carter was speaking through a not-so-accurate freelance translator who spoke “shaky” Polish. When Carter opened with “I left the United States this morning,” it was translated to, “When I abandoned the United States“.  This was met with laughter at first, but as the errors continued and got worse, the Polish were left shaking their heads.  When Carter mentioned, “I have come to learn your opinions and understand your desires for the future,” it was translated into, “I desire the Poles carnally.”

 

If that wasn’t bad enough, the interpreter made things even worse by using 100 year old Polish syntax, and inadvertently criticizing the Polish constitution.

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