The deadly results of mistranslation

Translation is the silent waiter of linguistic performance: It often gets noticed only when it knocks over the serving cart. Sometimes these are relatively minor errors - a ham-handed rendering of an author's prose, the sort of thing a book reviewer might skewer with an acid pen.

But history is littered with more consequential mistranslations - erroneous, intentional or simply misunderstood. For a job that often involves endless hours poring over books or laptop screens, translation can prove surprisingly hazardous. Then Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev's infamous statement in 1956 - "We will bury you" - ushered in one of the Cold War's most dangerous phases, one rife with paranoia and conviction that both sides were out to destroy the other.

TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Thank you for reading The Straits Times

You have reached one of our Premium stories. To continue reading, get access now or log in if you are a subscriber.

What is Premium?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2018, with the headline 'The deadly results of mistranslation'. Print Edition | Subscribe