“War of words”
During the South African and Angola border conflict, the South African military authorities had difficulties in intercepting and understand the Cuban pilots flying the fighter aircraft’s Mig 23 communications. As a solution, they tried to contract Spanish speaking civilians to translate radio communications with no success. Eventually, they brought military pilots from Chile with broader avionics military knowledge Spanish speaking with great success.
“Translation and Culture: Taboos and Value Differences.”
Deeply held taboos in one culture can be completely neutral in another culture. Translation must be sensitive to the moral, spiritual values associations of the words and symbols in the language to find meaning equivalents. The values dimension is where some of the worst translation confounding takes place.
When President Carter went to Poland in 1977, the State Department hired a Russian interpreter who was not used to translating into Polish. Through that interpreter, Carter ended up saying things in Polish like “when I abandoned the United States” instead of “when I left the United States”; and saying things like “your lusts for the future” instead of “your desires for the future.” The mistakes became a media field day much to the embarrassment of the President.
When Nikita Khrushchev at the United Nations uttered the famous phrase “we will bury you” it was a culturally insensitive mistranslation from the Russian which really meant “we will outlast you.” The mistranslation was widely interpreted as a threat of attack. There are many examples like that which point to the necessity for cultural sensitivity in translation. Mistakes have led to expensive product re-branding, tumbling stock process, and a vision of horns on Moses’s head. Culture gives language different contexts. The same words passed from one culture to another obtain slightly or radically different meanings. Sometimes those meaning differences represent slight or intense value differences that could be critical in translations.