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July 22, 2016

Lost In Translation, This Time in Europe

An Arabic translator misled English listeners at an event held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011. Arabic translators in Europe are misleading law enforcement officials in Germany according to an article published by the Gatestone Institute.

The Gatestone Institute has published a report about Arab-speaking translators mistranslating the testimony of sexual abuse victims in Germany and in some instances going so far as to threaten the victims who try to tell their stories to authorities. The article, written by Stefan Frank, indicates is that there is a “fraternal solidarity between interpreters and criminal defendants" in Germany.

The article is summarizes the story from a book titled Sex in Court written by a German author, Alexander Stevens, who works as a lawyer in Munich. He was approached by a young Syrian girl who had been forced by her family to marry a man who was 34 years older than she was.

After seeking help at a woman’s shelter, the staff at the shelter brought her to Stevens who, after interviewing her, concluded that she was the victim of terrible abuse and humiliation.

He visited her the next day to bring her to the police, but by this point, the young Syrian girl did not want to speak to him. Later he was given a note by a staffer at the women’s shelter in which the girl reported that she had gone to the police station, but that the interpreter intimidated her into not telling her story.

The interpreter told the girl, Sali, that she should not dishonor her husband and family by going to the police.

Subsequently to sending the note, the girl committed suicide.

The Gatestone article also documents how non-Muslim refugees who try to report abuse perpetrated by fellow refugees who are Muslim are oftentimes intimidated by Muslim interpreters who side with the accused. One source quoted in the article states that complaints are often retracted because the interpreters threaten to torpedo the victims' asylum applications.

The Gatestone article might spark a memory on the part of loyal Snapshot readers. In 2011, Snapshots highlighted a video that documented the mistranslation of a speaker at an event that took place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here's the summary:

The video indicates that in Arabic, [Ahmed] Maher, one of the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement, accused Israel of perpetrating a "genocide" against the Palestinians. …

The translator said in English that (and this is a paraphrase) in a neighboring territory, people are being oppressed and killed and are having their rights taken away. This is a long way from the accusation of genocide apparently leveled initially by Maher.

While the mistranslation at MIT was very disconcerting, imagine how awful it must be for the victims of abuse in Germany to know that they cannot trust the their own translators.

Posted by dvz at July 22, 2016 04:22 PM


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