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Pitfalls of translation in the diplomatic world:-

An Australian envoy tried to tell his French audience that as he looked back on his career, it was divided in two parts. But his French sparked unintended laughter: "When I look at my backside, I find it is divided into two parts."

A diplomat recalled a speech he gave on a visit to Palembang shortly after he had arrived on a posting in Indonesia:-
"Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of my wife and myself, I want to say how delighted we are to be in Palembang," he said in English.

The interpreter said something entirely different. "Ladies and gentlemen, on top of my wife, I am delighted to be in Palembang."

The former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke left his Japanese audience bewildered when he used the Australian colloquial phrase "I am not here to play funny buggers" to dismiss a trivial question.

"For Japanese interpreters, however, this was a real problem. They went into a huddle to consult on the best way to render 'funny buggers' into Japanese," Mr Woolcott wrote.

The interpreters told him they had then told the audience: "I am not here to play laughing homosexuals with you".

Australia's Labour Party leader Kevin Rudd, now a master of Mandarin, struggled with the language as a young diplomat in 1984 when he interpreted his ambassador's speech on the close relationship between Australia and China.

"Australia and China are enjoying simultaneous orgasms in their relationship," Mr Woolcott quoted Rudd as telling the audience in Mandarin.

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