发布时间：2018-01-26 浏览次数：7310 文章来源：博雅翻译（成都）
Jimmy Carter knew how to get an audience to pay attention. In a speech given during the US President's 1977 visit to Poland, he appeared to express sexual desire for the then-Communist country. Or that's what his translator said, anyway. It turned out Carter had said he wanted to learn about the Polish people's 'desires for the future'.
Earning a place in history, his translator also turned 'I left the United States this morning' into 'I left the United States, never to return'; according to Time magazine, even the innocent statement that Carter was happy to be in Poland became the claim that 'he was happy to grasp at Poland's private parts'.
Unsurprisingly, the President used a different translator when he gave a toast at a state banquet later in the same trip – but his woes didn't end there. After delivering his first line, Carter paused, to be met with silence. After another line, he was again followed by silence. The new translator, who couldn't understand the President's English, had decided his best policy was to keep quiet. By the time Carter's trip ended, he had become the punchline for many a Polish joke.
In 1956, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev was translated as saying “We will bury you” to Western ambassadors at a reception at the Polish embassy in Moscow. The phrase was plastered across magazine covers and newspaper headlines, further cooling relations between the Soviet Union and the West.
Yet when set in context, Khruschev's words were closer to meaning 'Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will dig you in'. He was stating that Communism would outlast capitalism, which would destroy itself from within, referring to a passage in Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto that argued 'What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.' While not the most calming phrase he could have uttered, it was not the sabre-rattling threat that inflamed anti-Communists and raised the spectre of a nuclear attack in the minds of Americans.
Khruschev himself clarified his statement – although not for several years. 'I once said 'We will bury you', and I got into trouble with it,' he said during a 1963 speech in Yugoslavia. 'Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you.'
Mistranslations during negotiations have often proven contentious. Confusion over the French word 'demander', meaning 'to ask', inflamed talks between Paris and Washington in 1830. After a secretary translated a message sent to the White House that began 'le gouvernement fran?ais demande' as 'the French government demands', the US President took issue with what he perceived as a set of demands. Once the error was corrected, negotiations continued.
Some authorities have been accused of exploiting differences in language for their own ends. The Treaty of Waitangi, a written agreement between the British Crown and the Māori people in New Zealand, was signed by 500 tribal chiefs in 1840. Yet conflicting emphases in the English and Māori versions have led to disputes, with a poster claiming 'The Treaty is a fraud' featuring in the Māori protest movement.
More of a misunderstanding than a mistranslation, one often-repeated phrase might have been reinforced by racial stereotypes. During Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai famously said it was 'too early to tell' when evaluating the effects of the French Revolution. He was praised for his sage words, seen as reflecting Chinese philosophy; yet he was actually referring to the May 1968 events in France.
According to retired US diplomat Charles W Freeman Jr – Nixon's interpreter during the historic trip – the misconstrued comment was 'one of those convenient misunderstandings that never gets corrected.' Freeman said: 'I cannot explain the confusion about Zhou's comment except in terms of the extent to which it conveniently bolstered a stereotype (as usual with all stereotypes, partly perceptive) about Chinese statesmen as far-sighted individuals who think in longer terms than their Western counterparts.
'It was what people wanted to hear and believe, so it took hold.'