But Words Get in the Way…

Last week, we dove into the world of mistranslations one may encounter in a restaurant setting. Now, while many of the things we read were quite humorous, all in all, the terms were merely just that, funny. But what about when a mistranslation causes more than just some giggles? What if it can change the course of one´s life or history?

Back in 1973, then President, Jimmy Carter, held a news conference in Poland. It would be the first time one had been held in a communist country. A State Department Official served as translator and interpreter for this important event and made quite a mess of the thing. He often substituted Russian words for Polish ones and while the Poles at first found some of the mistranslations rather comical, they soon became quite irritated. Some examples: Instead of ¨Our nation was founded¨ the interpreter said ¨Our nation was woven¨ and ¨His prediction came true¨ was said as ¨And that´s what happened¨ but the best was, ¨I have come to learn your opinions and understand your desires for the future¨ which became, ¨I desire the Poles carnally¨. How embarrassing! Come to think of it, still quite funny.

You never know what kind of patient will be admitted into a hospital, what country he comes from or what language he speaks. So, of course, interpreters in hospital settings are a necessity so as to avoid any type of medical conflict.  In one instance a Hispanic man had collapsed from being ¨intoxicado¨, which, to anyone who speaks Spanish would know, means that he was suffering from stomach pains, possibly from bad food or a virus. The paramedics who tended to the man took ¨intoxicado¨ to mean ¨intoxicated¨ and proceeded to treat the patient for a drug and alcohol overdose. Two days later, the man was reevaluated and found to have blood clots in his brain. He became a quadriplegic as a result of this terrible misdiagnosis and the hospital was made to pay $71 million in damages.

Let´s not make these kind of dreadful mistakes again and hire the correct people for a job well done.