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During World War II Admiral Canaris, then head of the nazi intelligence service, received a report from his Spanish agents on a conference of F. D. Roosevelt and W. Churchill to be held in Casablanca (a city in western Morocco) in 1943.
Sunshine on mosque Hassan II in Casablanca
Photo courtesy of Milamber
The linguistically-minded nazi master-spy thought that Casablanca was just the Spanish for the White House ('casa' means 'house' and 'blanca' means 'white' in Spanish) and concluded that the meeting would take place in Washington, USA and consequently out of reach of nazi agents.
This story, in which an unhappy mistranslator is involved, reminds me one of the most common myths about translation: Anyone with a basic knowledge of a foreign language can translate.
In reality, if a person can speak two or more languages, it doesn't necessarily mean that he or she can translate well between these languages. Never completely masters of their own language, people are even more insecure where the knowledge of foreign languages is concerned.
Bilingualism is not a guarantee of quality translations. Therefore, to feel certain that the quality of the translation is good, it makes sense to send your document for translation to a professional translator.
Misunderstandings resulting from insufficient knowledge of a foreign tongue result in translation errors that have bad and sometimes even fatal consequences.
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