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Lost in translation

[1:03 pm update]

According to the Spec:

Responding to a question about homosexuality in Iran, Ahmanidejad said, In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” a statement which drew laughter followed by boos.

Aries Dela Cruz, GS ’08 and communications chair of the Columbia Queer Alliance, said after the speech that the question to Ahmadinejad had been poorly phrased.

“The Western category of gay or lesbian doesn’t translate well into Farsi,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that Ahmadinejad didn’t understand the question.”

As a linguistics/anthro major, it infuriates me that such a controversial issue was further complicated due to translation problems. My coworker commented that SIPA should have done a better job of finding a more competent translator (from the UN, maybe?). However, this delves into cultural issues, which are beyond languages in isolated form.


Rumor has it that the translator for yesterday's Ahmadinejad forum incorrectly translated the Iranian President's quote as follows:

AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country.

We don't have that in our country.

In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it.

After speaking to a friend in the work office, I found that some of the Persian (American?) students who listened to the speech think that rather than just "We don't have that," Ahmadinejad directly stated a difference between Iranian and American culture.

This still has yet to be verified, but if it's true, it makes a very big difference. Who knows if Fox News has the intellectual capacity to make such a distinction.


  1. SoHo said...

    Officially, he said something along the lines of:

    "Homosexuality in our country is not the same as homosexuality in yours."

    ...according to two of my friends of Persian/Iranian descent who speak fluent Farsi.

    Basically, he was referring to the culture of homosexuality as being different in both countries.

    He *never* said there were NO homosexuals in Iran. That was a mistranslation.  

  2. Anonymous said...

    I have to wonder why there has been so much Ahmadinejad coverage on this blog when the AAA has said (on this same blog) that the organization "just doesn't care."  

  3. David said...

    Why? You should have read closer - we said we didn't care about his presence one way or another, BUT we do care about the actions and reactions of our peers. Because these are the same actions that can illustrate cultural intolerance, misunderstanding, and insensitivity on other fronts.

    In this way, a non-Western language misconstrued in a manner like this is certainly something we would care about.  

  4. SoHo said...

    more on this:


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