Vital information lost in translation

2015-07-22 06:00
Moeti Molelekoa - Social Observer

Moeti Molelekoa - Social Observer

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

IN 1996 a mine worker from Mozambique known as Samson, was charged with theft by a mining company.

This after a large number of goods belonging to the particular mining company were discovered at his home in Thabong, Welkom.

During the hearing he was asked by the presiding officer to secure an interpreter, given that he mainly spoke and understood Tshona and Portuguese. The case was postponed to enable the accused to secure an interpreter. Ultimately, a Portuguese national, also a miner, acted as interpreter in Samson’s trial.

During the trial, Samson queried the accuracy of the interpreter’s translation. Samson was then told to carry on in English because it appeared that he disguised the fact that he was well-versed in English.

The question remains, however: How many people are being deprived of a fair trial because of inaccurate interpretation by interpreters?

Samson was found guilty and fired. He was, however, given a fair trial and his right of representation was respected.

I raise the issue of accurate interpretation after deaf viewers complained bitterly over Thamsanqa ‘Bompie’ Jantjie’s sign language interpretation ability at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Gauteng on 11 December 2013. Aggrieved deaf viewers said that Janjie’s interpretation proved that he was incompetent.

Be that as it may, the deaf community was deprived of an opportunity to make real sense of messages in speeches by USA President Barak Obama and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, among other heads of state, by a fake sign language interpreter.

Court interpreters, especially those not adequately trained, can put South Africa’s justice system in jeopardy. Some of them have in fact been accused of misrepresenting the facts. Incidents involving interpreters can lead to a miscarriage of justice because they (interpreters) create loopholes which lawyers can capitalise on. Dramatisation by interpreters with the view to make the audience laugh in court is one of the aspects I observed during a hearing in Welkom.

In 1974, four Welkom municipal workers (garbage collectors) were each sentenced to five years in prison after they were found guilty under apartheid’s Terrorism Act for engaging in industrial action. During that era, trade unions were outlawed and those organising the workers were regarded as terrorists. They were perceived to be working with underground, banned movements like the ANC, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), South African Communist Party (SACP) and others.

The four were asked why they had refused instruction to disperse from the illegal gathering and go back to work.

They replied that they did not comprehend the translation of the interpreter as he lacked understanding of Xhosa dialects and that his interpretation was inaccurate. In his testimony, the interpreter said the defendants should have pointed out the miscommunication at the scene.

The interpreter grew up in a township, while the accused were from the rural Eastern Cape and used a pure Xhosa dialect.

Recently, King Goodwill Zwelithini declared that he was misquoted, following allegations that he told a gathering in KwaZulu-Natal that foreigners should pack up and return to their native countries. This transpired during brutal xenophobic attacks in KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of the country which claimed scores of lives and left hundreds homeless.

) To express your views about the issue highlighted in the column, go to www.express-news.co.za. Express Goldfields andamp; NFS welcomes anyone interested in contributing to the weekly column as public observers or citizen journalists. There is no payment for writers.

) Send your opinion piece (not exceeding 500 words, English or Sotho) to teboho.setena@volksblad.com

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
PARTNER CONTENT
INFOGRAPHIC: New thinking required for retirement

Everything we believe about retirement is fast becoming outdated.

/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.