I will never forget the occasion in 2006 of producing a press conference in Bucharest – in the Romanian language….with no effective translation and a hungry pack of newly-liberated journalists.
Ceausescu’s Palace (grotesque to many as an icon of a Communist super-monster, but nonetheless amazing) was the adjacent backdrop for the corporate press conference in question. It wasn’t so much the behaviour of the journalists (in a frenzy about a piece of corporate news that to most of us would be treated as the usual business daily wallpaper), nor the ironic significance of reporting corporate success from a location once a Communist HQ. No. It was more the horror of realising that the translator the agency had sent along that morning was translating for us all from Romanian into Russian, instead of into English as planned.
As you might imagine, being unable to monitor the proceedings of the Q&A between the journalists and the Romanian speaker, the outcome was not as expected, because when the record of the press conference was published it was clear that there had been an unwittingly uncontrolled bun fight. The news currants that had been flung from the said bun became stuck on the pages of the emerging business dailies that were looking for a (relative) sugar fix.
And next came a corporate trial without a jury from the corporate’s tax department because they were potentially facing a tax authority investigation on the financial statements that had been made by the last-minute substitute Romanian-speaker during the Q&A. The numbers given out, or that had been reported, had inferred tax liabilities in the millions. Oops.
The lesson here is never to accept last minute spokespeople without a re-briefing, and make sure that the translation agency understands the request. An ironic story, to say the least