Lost in Translation? An Interpreter Speaks

Friday, July 29, 2011

Last week, Nafissatou Diallo — the hotel maid who has accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, of attempted rape — spoke to the media about the incident. She claims to have been badly misquoted in a taped conversation being used by the defense to discredit her. The conversation was in her native dialect, Fulani, a West African language. Her claims highlight the difficulties of translation, and the weighty responsibility on translators and interpreters to get the tone and the meaning of words correct in cases like this.

Amanda Galsworthy knows all about the art of translation. She has been an interpreter for three French presidents, including Nicholas Sarkozy. 


Amanda Galsworthy

Produced by:

Susie Warhurst

Comments [5]

annie kitchin from Brussels

Alice Pearson's snide comment about "illiterate" Fulani speakers "ly[ing] their way" into the USA is beneath contempt.

Aug. 09 2011 02:39 PM
Alice Pearson from Cosmopolitan

I am a qualified, sworn UK official interpreter with almost 20 years experience of work with How many times this have happened to me and my colleagues is difficult to say, but: whenever a claim is weak, inconsistent or their client not credible enough, the lawyers try to blame it on the interpreters, even if they have been given an obligatory read-back and signed the written interpretation and the sealed tape recording. An old and desperate trick, exactly like in this case. Unless, of course, they officials might have real problems finding an educated Fulani speaker in the USA, after all the illiterate ones have lied their way in?

Jul. 29 2011 10:05 PM
Anna Silva from New York

BTW, Charles in the comment section. If you have ever worked in a white-collar office job late into the night, you will meet the cleaning lady (yes, usually a woman) cleaning & dusting the office. I chat with these cleaning ladies sometimes (they're from Poland, Edcuador, Mexico, etc), they can understand some basic English only. If your English is as good as Ernest Hemingway, you wouldn't need to work as a cleaning lady. You'd get a high-paid & less physically demanding job.

Jul. 29 2011 07:58 PM
Anna Silva from New York

Note to Charles in the comment section above, the hotel maid is merely as a cleaning crew, a housekeeper who is supposed to clean an empty hotel room when the guest have left the room (hence, the hotel cleaning job doesn't require great orator English speaking skills). Therefore, you don't need to speak very good English to work at this job. Just good cleaning skills, good work ethics & basic English are sufficient.

Jul. 29 2011 07:55 PM

If someone can't give a rudimentary criminal interview in passable English, how could that person get a service-related job in a high-end Manhattan hotel?

And what language was she speaking, in her interecepted telephone calls with her friend who was incarcerated on drug charges?

Jul. 29 2011 10:10 AM

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