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Wednesday 21 Feb 2018 | 13:16 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 21 Feb 2018 | 13:16 | SYDNEY

An interpreter's worst nightmare



11 August 2009 10:36

A while back some colleagues and I tried to find out more about the two interpreters who appear in our banner image. We got as far as discovering their names — that's Dimitry Zarechnak behind Ronald Reagan and Nikolay Uspensky behind Gorbachev —but that's it. We have no idea if they are alive today.

My aim was to interview one or both of them about the scene in the photo, about their experience of the Cold War, and about any blunders they might have made. I doubt any would be as embarrassing as this:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost her cool Monday after a Congolese student, speaking through a translator, asked her what "Mr. Clinton" thought about a Chinese trade deal with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?" Clinton replied, clearly irked by the thought of being her husband Bill's spokeswoman. "My husband is not secretary of state, I am," she replied. "If you want my opinion I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband."

The only problem? Apparently the translator made a mistake and the student had wanted to know what President Obama thought of the deal.

Apparently the student approached Clinton afterward and explained the confusion. I liked the footnote to the story:

...imagine what the [audience] thought when her response was translated back and they heard Clinton call President Obama her husband...

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