We’ve seen American politicians playing fast and loose with translations before — but that last incident, involving a specially targeted Spanish-language version of President Obama’s State of the Union Address — was strictly domestic. Now, Foreign Policy reports on an international case of high-profile, low-quality translation of a particularly explosive document.
As you might have, heard, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton sent a letter signed by 47 Republican Senators to Iranian leaders explaining the US Constitution and warning them about signing a nuclear arms deal with President Obama. The Senator also tweeted a Farsi version of the letter.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that the Farsi version of the letter “reads like a Middle Schooler wrote it”, according to Foreign Policy. Here’s an excerpt from the translation, as it would read to a Farsi speaker:
The meaning of these two articles of Constitution is that we any agreement related to your armed nuclear program is not passed by the Congress is that not anything more than an agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei don’t consider. Whoever replaces the president could remove such a chairmanship agreement with the movement of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.
Foreign Policy suspects that Senator Cotton relied on Google Translate instead of hiring a high-quality human translator. It’s something we recommend even when the stakes are somewhat lower than international nuclear negotiations.