Misinterpretations 3. Alleged or real?

It remains to be seen whether this latest international translation incident is the fault of the interpreter or the political leader. More definitive information will be added as it comes to light. Previous examples (scheduled to be presented in this ongoing series) show that interpreters are sometimes the convenient scapegoats for official political errors or misjudgements.

(From The Age online, Melbourne, Australia, June 13)

Indon officials rush to correct interpreter’s mistake

June 13, 2008 – 4:40PM

Indonesia’s foreign minister has contacted Australian officials to explain an interpreter’s mistake made during a press conference by the two nations’ leaders.

The error was made when Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono talked about Australian travel warnings after meeting with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Jakarta today.

According to the interpreter, Dr Yudhoyono said he looked forward to Australia lifting its travel alert for Indonesia, prompting a pointed response from Mr Rudd.

A spokesman for Dr Yudhoyono later told Australian journalists the president had not said that.

He said the president was not asking Mr Rudd to lift the advisory and that it was a matter for the Australian government.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda contacted Australian ambassador Bill Farmer to clarify the matter.

The US recently dropped its travel warnings for Indonesia but Australia still warns its citizens against travelling there because of the threat of imminent terrorist attacks.

After hearing the interpreter’s initial version of Dr Yudhoyono’s remarks, Mr Rudd made it clear the warning would not change.

The Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005, which killed 108 Australians, had a significant impact on a large number of Australian families, he said.

“In Australia, we have an important body – the National Threat Assessment Centre – that is our process, as it has been in the past and will be into the future.”

The existing travel advice warns Australian citizens to reconsider their need to travel to Indonesia, including Bali, “due to the very high threat of terrorist attack”.

“We continue to receive reports indicating that terrorists are planning attacks against a range of targets, including Western interests and places frequented by foreigners,” the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says on its smartraveller.gov.au website.

(from The Age online, Melbourne, Australia, June 13)

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