(By Ray D.)
After releasing it's English version of an interview with US Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes, SPIEGEL ONLINE today released its German version of the same interview. At least it was supposed to be the same interview...
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Another Translation Train Wreck
Unfortunately, as has been the case so often in the past, the German version was noticeably different from the English version. What you see is not always what you get at SPIEGEL ONLINE. Here is a summary of serious discrepancies:
- In her response to the second question on the recent release of Abu Ghraib photos, Hughes says: "We don't want to be defined by those pictures, any more than the people of Germany would want your country to be defined by pictures of crimes." The segment in bold (emphasis ours) is omitted from the German version.
- In a response on Guantanamo, Hughes states in the English version: "I hope that the people of Germany would be able to recognize that we should not allow a difference over how we handle 490 terrorists who have pledged to kill Americans and others to divide our two countries and our historic friendship." The segments in bold (emphasis ours) are omitted from the German version.
- In the English version, Hughes' final line is: "I think all of us should take a breath and be a little bit more charitable about how we view each other." The entire sentence is omitted from the German version, leaving this line at the very end: "Die Menschen liegen ihm am Herzen, er ist ein wunderbarer Führer." (emphasis ours)
- In the English version, Hughes speaks of the possible use of force against Iran: "We hope that we are able to resolve this diplomatically -- that is our fervent hope." The segment in bold (emphasis ours) is omitted from the German version.
- In the second question, the German version refers to Guantanamo as follows: "Und ein Bericht der Vereinten Nationen verlangt die Schließung des Lagers von Guantanamo - das sei ein Gefängnis in rechtsfreiem Raum." The segment in bold (emphasis ours) does not appear in the English version. The English translation of the segment in bold (which refers to Guantanamo) is: "- that is a prison in a space free from legal jursidiction."
- The third question in the German version: "Sie hatten ihre Gründe dafür." does not appear in the English version. Translated that means: "They had their reasons for that."
- In another line of question, Hughes is asked: "So what do you hear in the Muslim world? Why is there so much hatred against America?" She replies: "That's not an accurate depiction." The German translation of her reply is given as: "Hass ist nicht das richtige Wort." The German translated: "Hate is not the right word." That's not what she said.
- In the English version, Hughes says of Angela Merkel: "She, as someone who grew up behind the Iron Curtain, understands the importance of freedom, and we view Germany as an important partner in helping foster democracy that we believe will lead, ultimately to a safer world." The segment in bold (emphasis ours) is omitted in the German version.
- In the next question on Merkel in the English version, SPIEGEL states: "But even such a close friend as Angela Merkel is criticizing Guantanamo." The segment in bold (emphasis ours) is omitted in the German version.
- In the German version, Hughes is asked: "Und Sie schicken Ihre namhaftesten Muslime nun als Botschafter rund um die Welt?" This question does not appear in the English version. Translated it means: "And now you send your best-known Muslims around the world as ambassadors?"
- Two questions and answers in the English version (on the cartoon issue and the cartoons in the American press) are completely omitted from the German version.
- The German version contains a second photo caption featuring SPIEGEL's inflammatory new “America’s Shame” cover complete with multiple links. The English version does not contain the caption.
- In the English version, Hughes says of her job (towards the end of the interview): "I view my job as engaging people." The entire sentence is omitted from the German version.
- In the English version, Hughes refers to the "secretary of state" in a response on "polling before September 11th." There is no mention of the secretary of state in the German version.
- The German version specifically refers to "Public Diplomacy" in the first question, the English version does not.
- SPIEGEL does not identify the individual(s) responsible for translating the interview.
But that's not all. The German version's photo caption is also quite striking:
German photo caption (compare to English version):
"Bush friend Hughes: "A wonderful Führer""
What a flattering choice of words for the German-language caption. George W. Bush is "Ein wunderbarer Führer." How convenient that SPIEGEL ONLINE cut the entire last sentence for the desired ending with the desired connotation. And the lesson is this: If you lop off enough sentences and references to friendship, hope and understanding, any interview can fit your distorted worldview. In this case, a perfectly amicable interview has been twisted into a public relations nightmare by disingenuous journalists with an ideological axe to grind.
So much for reaching out to the German "friends." Perhaps Undersecretary Hughes (and other members of the Bush administration) should think long and hard the next time a SPIEGEL journalist comes along asking for an interview. This sort of hatchet job has become the rule and not the exception. Just look at SPIEGEL's "fair and balanced" reporting on the USA over the past few years Madame Secretary:
Endnote: If readers find further errors in the SPIEGEL translations of the Karen Hughes interview, please point them out in the comments section or email us. Also check out our previous post on the Hughes interview.