Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The real crime in that transcript

Okay, sometimes I’m a bit of a political junkie – particularly at times like this, when the current book ground to a halt during my two weeks of sniffling and I haven’t mustered the energy to get started again. But in my defense, how many people are there in the Western world who aren’t curious about the actual contents of a phone call that’s being touted as sufficient cause to impeach the current President?
So I read the transcript, and I didn’t see the things that the impeachment crowd told me would be there. No quid pro quo. No repetitive demands for investigation of l’affaire Biden. And nothing about the upcoming election, just concern about dirty tricks in the 2016 election. What, Mueller could “investigate” the 2016 election to his heart’s content for two years, but it’s somehow illegitimate for the President to do so? Gimme a break.
On a careful re-reading, though, I did come across something that is… well, okay, not criminal, but certainly cruelty to a certain class of people – translators. I’ve never been a fan of President Trump’s word-salad style of speaking, and it was fully evident here.

“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike ... I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”
Never mind whether you see impropriety in this jumble of words, I’m not arguing about that. Just consider this: unless Zelensky is fluent in English – or even if he is - somebody had to translate this into Ukrainian. Which means they had to decide, on the fly, what it meant.
Do you suppose the translator made a flying leap and converted this stream-of-consciousness word salad into complete sentences that actually made sense? Or did he throw up his hands and go for a word-for-word translation that would have been inferior to what you can get from Google Translate? I’d love to know. And if the conversion had been to any language that I can actually read, I’d be scouring the Internet to find out. Sadly, a passage in Ukranian would be worse than Greek to me – after all, I can actually sort of read Greek, given plenty of time and a good dictionary. So I guess I’ll never know.
Nor will we ever know how much vodka the poor translator needed to recover from this experience.


  1. I've notice that, in business conversations with people whose English skills are decent but not exceptional, my normal fairly informal style needs to be modified. Humor, especially, tends not to work very well.

  2. Once upon a time I actually had very minor part time job tutoring (yes, really) and generally those seeking tutoring knew the material but didn't know how to apply it. There was one clear exception and I think I saw him perhaps twice, maybe as many as three times. The subject was some (simpler) branch of mathematics. And he was very good at that. What stumped him was the instructor using colloquialism that this person (ESL, I presume) didn't "get" having been taught 'formal' English. He all but blew up upon realizing what the real issue was, "Why can't he speak English?!"

  3. Linked and discussed at Chicago Boyz:



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