Once again, bad translation is to blame for an international “incident” involving those at the top level of government.
According to Washington, an interpreter is to blame after reports U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told President Park Geun-hye in Seoul on Friday that, “betting against the U.S. is a bad bet” (or at least that’s what the interpreter relayed).
Since every word in the public forum is scrutinized on the world stage, this gaffe is just the latest that the U.S. has to try to explain.
Biden’s exact words were, “It’s never been a good bet to bet against America” and America would continue to place its bets on Korea.
This comment is pretty innocuous by itself, and would really depend on the context to draw any kind of threat surrounding it. But of course, the media just needs a slight possibility there could be anything malign in a statement in order to make a big deal out of it. The issue they are claiming is that the comment, distributed to the press, came across as a warning not to side with those who are opposed to America.
But when asked whether the comments were a veiled threat to Korea against siding with China, both Seoul and Washington frantically tried to quell the controversy by blaming the hapless interpreter.
Eight hours had passed since the original press release was distributed when the Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in Seoul issued fresh press releases on Friday night saying the interpretation of Biden’s comments was “inaccurate.”
On Saturday, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and the U.S. State Department stepped in. Yun told the National Assembly that Biden had made the same comments in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that the words were not aimed at “pressuring” Seoul. Yun glossed Biden’s remarks as meaning that it would be wrong to bet that the U.S. will renege on its pledge to put the priority on Asia, and that the words were not at all aimed at Beijing. His comment was meant to illustrate the solid cooperation with Korea in many regional and global issues, he added.
Yun said the interpreter’s error stemmed from a “misunderstanding of colloquial English.” But it was the State Department that had brought the interpreter in the first place.
This isn’t the first time a translator was blamed for their less-than-perfect interpretations. In fact, only recently there was the sign-gate scandal at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service. And if you want to go back in history for some pretty outrageous translation blunders by our world leaders, you can check out our post: 5 Historically Legendary Translation Blunders.
Do you think it was fair for the translator to receive the blame in this case? Let us know in the comments below.