That Moment When Interpreters are Put Down by World Leaders

“As the Argentinian  president greeted him in Spanish, Trump took his his translation earpiece off telling Macri 'I think I understood you better in your language than through the translator'“. 

What a nerve-wracking moment this must have been for the interpreter. Speaking of the word interpreter, this is the first thing I will address here: it was not a translator, as the person was not translating a document in writing, it was an interpreter. Completely different things. Let’s move on.

There are always two sides to a story. Yes, there are some bad interpreters out there, just like in any other profession. However, I find it difficult that a bad interpreter would be assigned to such an important meeting, this is two presidents we are talking about. Yes, the equipment can fail. Remember, the interpreter is relying on the earpiece and electronic devices to ensure his or her voice is transmitted clearly, and we all know technology has its days. Yes, sometimes an interpreter can have an accent in their second language. However, again, I find it hard to believe anyone that has an accent that would prevent other people to understand them would get to the level of interpreting for two presidents.

The other side of the story, knowing the character here, whether you are a supporter or not, it could have been that he simply disliked the voice, the transmitter, the accent, and this list can go on and on and on.

Now, let’s put ourselves in this interpreter’s shoes. This is his or her job. He or she is a professional. I personally don’t know if the interpretation was, in fact, poor. It is a possibility. However, I very much doubt that this is what took place. I cannot imagine how I would feel if my job was criticized internationally, by a world leader, in the news. Since you and I were not there and we don’t know for a fact that the interpreter was a disaster, let’s just take this opportunity to reinforce the fact that a bad interpretation on important matters, such as this, can be avoided.

The trick is to do an extensive research of the interpreter’s experience, knowledge, professional studies, preparation, etc. As we have said many times, being bilingual is not enough to be an interpreter. Again, I am not implying this was the case on Trump’s meeting with Macri, but I am saying that this happens more often than it should.

Do your due diligence. Trump does not speak Spanish and, when he took off his earpiece, his communication with Macri was immediately ineffective and at risk. Do you know how many negative consequences this can have? Hire professionals.