Why translators should be paid more


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.



So this happened last week. And it was reported yesterday in the US media. But it bears repeating.

It's troubling how often you hear reporters say that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants Israel "wiped off the map." The translation is almost always used to show how serious a threat the guy is. It has been used to partly justify economic sanctions against Iran. And sometimes worse. It is sometimes even condensed on television to simply: Ahmadinejad wants Israel "exterminated."

He never said it. It never happened. It was a mistranslation that since 2005 has been used over and over again. But journalists continue to cite it. Here's an example from two days go, published in a newspaper in Australia.

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During the 2005 speech, Ahmadinejad — referring to the late founder of Iran’s Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini — said: “The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.”

This and other translations suggest that Ahmadinejad was hoping for the political end of the Jewish state, not the all out annihilation of the country.

In an interview with Al Jazeera last week, Israel's minister of intelligence and atomic energy, admitted that Ahmadinejad's words had been twisted.

"In a reminder that Persian rhetoric is not always easy for English-speakers to interpret, a senior Israeli official has acknowledged that Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, never actually said that Israel 'must be wiped off the map,'" read The New York Times piece.

But when you search Google for the phrase, the first result on my browser was the original New York Times story from 2005 that quoted Ahmadinejad wrongly.

The headline: "Wipe Israel 'Off the Map' Iranian says."