The Multilingual Reality of Global Business Expansion
In a multilingual world, translation is an ever-present reality–in business, government, personal and social interaction, and communication. And it matters! Just ask Hilary Clinton, the former US Secretary of State. In an attempt to say, in a vivid manner, that the new Obama Administration was concerned to start afresh its relations with Russia, at a meeting with the Russian foreign affairs minister, Sergey Lavrov, Hilary Clinton presented him with a box that had a red button on the top, which he was invited to push. The idea was to symbolize a re-setting of the US–Russian relationship. She even suggested to him that they ‘worked hard to get the right Russian word’. His response was blunt: ‘You got it wrong . . . It should be perezagruzka . . . [not] peregruzka, which means overcharged’ (Elliott, 2009, 22). The literature on language is littered with examples of inappropriate translations and their consequences–in part because of the inability to place a translated communication within its relevant cultural context, illustrating the reality that translation cannot be simply disconnected from culture (Welch et al., 2001). However, sometimes the translator saves political face: ‘When a Hungarian leader receiving a ceremonial welcome in Sierra Leone was referred to as the President of Bulgaria, it was the interpreter who, without missing a beat, corrected the error’ (Jaivin, 2013, 3).
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