The world is a global community, with translation being the platform and plethora of human co-existence and interaction.
Translation has always been used in unifying nations and cultures across the globe in the form of bilingual negotiations, agreements, and proposals.
The history of humanity is based on legal contentions and a sense of entitlement to—rightful—interpretations conditioned by ideological factors, and on political engagement contributing to geopolitical shifts, for better or for worse.
The global reach of international law and politics only goes to heighten the importance of language and translation. Government agencies, as well as foreign entities such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the United Arab Emirates, translates for intelligence, negotiation, and dissemination of information or propaganda.
Even non-governmental agencies (NGO’s) be they religious or secular, are steadily becoming reliant on the efficacy of proper translation, and as such, “translation” will be a tool heavily relied upon for power and cultural issues.
Language and words, their meanings, and more often their contentious definition, have often played a fundamental role in the preliminary causes of war and final ultimatums involving diplomatic translation or mistranslation.
In many cases associated with colonial conquest treaties and conventions, agreements were translated—from verbal sources or sign language, and then from the colonizer’s dialect back into the native’s words…which in most cases led to a loss in terms of legal concepts and meanings during this translation and drafting process. In fact, in some cases, the local translator/mediator was painfully alienated from the trust of his tribal community.
Another good example of a catastrophic mistranslation was the Vietnam war of 1964 in which the NSA made a wrong translation of an intel received stating that the North Vietnamese forces attacked the U.S army at the Golf of Tonkin twice. This provoked the retaliation by the U.S troops.
For more interesting translation mistakes, please see the infographic below, provided by Lighthouse.