The importance of expert translators

After my post from last week discussing translation experts and the role they play, I was reminded by a friend about the Madeleine McCann case. For those who are not familiar with this story, Madeleine was a three-year-old girl vacationing with her family in Portugal in 2007 when she disappeared one night while her parents dined with friends. Tragically, a year and a half later, no conclusions have been drawn and she is still considered as missing.

Among the tumult and confusion of the entire case, one of the principal translators for the police in the myriad witness statements in the days following Madeleine’s disappearance was also a suspect.  I by no means wish to imply that he tampered or that the case would be solved if not for his interference (in fact, he was later removed from the list of suspects and ultimately sued and won a libel case against newspapers that had printed allegations against him during the beginning of the case), but it is worth asking how the police in Praia da Luz (a beachside resort town at the southwestern tip of Portugal) could not find a single reliable Portuguese <> English translator who was not directly attached to a case that was featured prominently on the front pages of the major newspaper throughout the world.

As described in the article below, the police had to return and reexamine all of the statements to find out how the translator’s bias affected the case, a step that will hopefully be unnecessary if more people are inspired to register themselves as expert translators.