First-time posters: please review the site's moderation policy

One blooper per answer, so we can vote up the best one(s)

asked 12 Oct '11, 22:39

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

edited 12 Oct '11, 22:40

123next »


Chairman thanking the usual suspects at the end of a meeting:

Original: "Je souhaite remercier tout particulièrement ma secrétaire"

Rendition: "I'd like to sp..., to sp..., to spank my secretary."

("Specially thank" was what the interpreter was trying to say.)

permanent link

answered 02 Nov '11, 12:36

eriogerg's gravatar image


edited 02 Nov '11, 12:37


Just curious: was the bumbling interpreter male or female?

(02 Nov '11, 15:18) Vincent Buck

The interpreter was female.

(04 Nov '11, 03:06) eriogerg

I want to vote for this one twice!!

(09 Nov '11, 16:03) Michelle

One alternative to voting up twice would be to award extra points, no?

(04 Feb '12, 14:02) Luigi

International organization meeting:

Original: our fight against global terrorism, we have hired 5 translators with the appropiate languages

Interpreter:.....en nuestra lucha contra el terrorismo mundial, hemos contratado a cinco terroristas (*)....

(*) we have hired 5 terrorists

permanent link

answered 02 Nov '11, 06:22

Conrado's gravatar image


a very recent one I perpetrated, actually only last week: during the public oral stage of a tax case at the Court in Luxembourg, I thought I heard a party's high-speed counsel, commenting impromptu on what that party could legitimately have been expected to do or not do, say: "Turkey does not vote for Christmas" - which I took to be an odd way of signifying to each its own, using a non-Christian country and a Christian festivity - and proceeded to render it as best I could. What had actually been said had of course been "A turkey does not vote for Xmas" meaning a taxpayer is not free to decide whether to pay tax...oh well! ;-)

permanent link

answered 28 Nov '11, 12:13

msr's gravatar image


During a meeting on small countries, a speaker mentioned that Andorra was the Hong-Kong of the Pyrenees - which was rendered by a straight-faced interpreter as "Andorra is the King-Kong of the Pyrenees"... Much more impressive ;-)

permanent link

answered 08 Apr '12, 02:28

Danielle's gravatar image


Contexte: que faire avec les excédents alimentaires en 1986?
Ce que j'ai entendu de la bouche de l'orateur Irlandais: "we could send them to turd countries"

L'interprète débutante gênée: Nous pouvons peut-être les acheminer vers les pays où nous envoyons déjà ce dont nous n'avons plus besoin.
Interprète d'encadrement: "C'est ça. La diplomatie et la langue anglaise vont rarement de pair"

permanent link

answered 02 Nov '11, 11:21

potdecolle's gravatar image


And again from a very intense practice session before the exams:

Original: All member states...

Said: Alle Mitgliedsständer...

Oh yeah, we shared a big laugh there!

permanent link

answered 27 Nov '11, 11:23

Matt's gravatar image



Vielen Dank, dass Du uns Witze auf Japanisch ersparst!

(27 Nov '11, 12:27) Angela

Said: "We need to give new impotence to this project"
Should have said: ".... impetus ...."

permanent link

answered 28 Oct '11, 20:39

Andy's gravatar image


Heard in a final consecutive exam:

Original: "One theory as to why the dinosaurs became extinct has to do with the fact that dinosaur eggs were so large" (don't ask me if this is true or not, but it's what the speaker was claiming)

Interpretation: "Una teoría dice que los dinosaurios se extinguieron porque tenían los huevos muy grandes."

To the student's credit, he managed to finish the speech with a straight face - and if I'm not mistaken, he even passed...

permanent link

answered 28 Nov '11, 17:17

Michelle's gravatar image


I was doing consecutive EN < > ES. The meeting started off in Spanish and I did two 4-5 minute segments into EN. Then the floor was passed to the other side, and I did another 4-5 minutes, at the end of which the head of the Spanish-speaking group gave me a big smile and said in EN: "That was excellent, but would you mind saying it again, this time in Spanish?" I had just done 5 minutes of EN-to-EN without being interrupted! We all had a good chuckle.

permanent link

answered 04 Feb '12, 14:18

Luigi's gravatar image


;-) I had the same happen to me years ago... what I found fascinating was that not only did the monitoring part of my brain not sound the alarm BUT its processing part, I realised looking back, had been merrily doing its stuff as if I was indeed dealing with two different languages, "disambiguanting", adding/deleting necessary/superfluous bits,"localising" figures of speech etc...fascinating! How right Danitza was, if more proof was needed!

(05 Feb '12, 08:42) msr

Slip of the tongue heard during a conference on religion in Italy:

Speaker: la Santa Messa

Interpreter: the Holy Mess

permanent link

answered 30 Mar '12, 06:51

olol's gravatar image


edited 30 Mar '12, 09:05

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

Your answer
toggle preview

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Markdown Basics

  • *italic* or _italic_
  • **bold** or __bold__
  • link:[text]( "title")
  • image?![alt text](/path/img.jpg "title")
  • numbered list: 1. Foo 2. Bar
  • to add a line break simply add two spaces to where you would like the new line to be.
  • basic HTML tags are also supported

Question tags:


question asked: 12 Oct '11, 22:39

question was seen: 18,008 times

last updated: 12 May '12, 07:19 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

about | faq | terms of use | privacy policy | content policy | disclaimer | contact us

This collaborative website is sponsored and hosted by AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters.