Political Translation Service
Updated: Dec 1, 2022
As we often point out, truly translating a full idea from one language to another is not easy, and when minimizing the true complexity and effort it requires silly mistakes happen. Sometimes these mistakes are humorous, and other times they can be extremely problematic, such as instances of billion-dollar advertising campaigns and lawsuits for libel.
Two years ago we wrote about one mistranslation that made news during the election season for entirely missing the mark to the point where the information conveyed was the exact opposite of what was originally meant.
In 2020, Taylor Swift responded on Twitter to President Donald Trump´s tweet “When looting starts, shooting starts” with “We will vote you out.” In Spanish media, however, publications translated Swift´s response to “Te votaremos,” which means “We will vote for you.” As you can see, this translation is problematic is several ways: it is inaccurate, saying the complete opposite of what was actually said, and it has the potential to elicit an actual response that has several negative effects. Taylor Swift, as a celebrity, relies on her communication with her fans as a major part of her career. Mistranslating her words can negatively affect her, which then can cause backlash from her to the media sources. And of course the mistranslation can prompt people who don’t know English or what the original said to misunderstand completely or even affect their votes.
Maybe the media source meant to write “Te botaremos” as in “throw out,” which would more closely convey Swift’s negative feelings rather than positive, but even though those Spanish words LOOK more similar to the original English ones, they still are missing enormous components of the original message- they would be encouraging people to do something immediately and not wait for the next election cycle. So there would still be quite a difference between the original intention and translation’s message. Much more accurate alternatives would have been: “Votaremos para que te vayas”, “Te sacaremos con nuestro voto”, “Te echaremos con nuestro voto”, etc. etc.
What Does This Mean for Me in Upcoming Election Cycles
Language is nuanced, beautiful, and complicated, and so is the realm of politics.
As a voter and consumer of media, this means you should always consult multiple translated sources when reading about politics. Of course, if you speak the original language it is always best to read quoted material that someone else spoke or wrote in its original form.
As someone working in politics, this means you should prioritize using highly trained translation services for your campaigns, brochures, social media, translated speeches, and so on. You should also hire someone or a team to specifically be on alert for mistranslations being published so you can call attention to them and correct them in a timely manner.
Here at Language Concepts, we have decades of experience working in translation in the business, social media, and political worlds. We can get to work for your campaign to translate candidate’s websites and materials into Spanish and many other languages. We can also work with your team in other ways, such as back-translating media about your campaign from another language to your primary language to check for mistranslated information out there.
At Language Concepts, we do not bring our personal political views to our work- we translate as accurately as possible from source language to target language and can work with any campaign or candidate. Please don’t hesitate to reach out today and see how we can get to work for you!