Who provides the interpreter when dignitaries visit?

Suppose a foreign head of nation visits another country. Who has the onus to provide an interpreter? Or interpreters? I’m thinking that there might be cases, where there’s a degree of enmity, that each speaker/listener would want his own. Do they ever have two interpreters present? I imagine that there must be stories of awkward meetings, jumbled interpretations, bad feelings, etc. that have arisen where language is a significant barrier. Does it work differently at different levels? In different countries? Is it considered bad form to bring your own interpreter? Inquiring minds want to know.

The conversations between Kruschev and Kennedy involved interpreters brought by each party. There was an important point missed in the rush, I think. Kruschev used a phrase meaning something like “I will be at your funeral” or “I will outlast you”, but it got interpreted as “I will bury you” or “I will be the reason you die”. This is from memory, though, and what was with Kennedy versus more people is a little hazy…

Both sides bring interpreters. Each interpreter listens to the other side, and translates it for his own side.

I think the logic might be that with this procedure, each dignitary speaks to everyone on the other side, and it promotes closer relations. If a dignitary would speak to his interpreter, and then it was the lowly interpreter who spoke to the other dignitary, I’d imagine that the other dignitary could feel insulted.

There’s also the point that you bring your own interpreter because you want to hear the translation of what your counterpart said from a person you fully trust.

It’s possible your interpreter might tell you “His words were as I reported them, but his hesitation and inflection indicated so and so.”

When working with an interpreter, even if there’s just one, the best practice is to always talk directly to the target of your words. They get the full focus of your non-verbal aspects of communication even if the words come later. You are also already focused on them and their non verbals when the words are delivered.

Developing a working relationship with your own interpreter also helps clear communication. You’ve prepped them on the more technical and non-standard aspects of what you want to say so they are prepared to convey the meaning. They know which idioms you tend to use that don’t translate directly. They can subtly signal if they need you to slow down or rephrase something. All of that is easier if there’s a working relationship instead of relying on some stranger.

FYI From pictures I have seen the interpreter sits behind the president , at least in the US.

Nikita Khrushchev (Никита Хрущёв) actually said this in 1956 but it became a big deal and was brought up again during the Kennedy years. Actually, Khrushchev was just paraphrasing something Karl Marx had written. Wikipedia has a bit on the history:

Here’s another site with more detail: Misinterpreting Khrushchev Put U.S. On The Moon.

You can google the words we will bury you to find a zillion more cites.

Then there was Jimmy Carter’s infamous mistranslation in Poland, 1977. He had somehow managed to get into a bind with having an interpreter, and hired one at the last minute (as I recall the story), who didn’t know his colloquial Polish quite well enough.

Carter mentioned that he had come to learn about the Poles’ desires for the future but the translator somehow translated “desire” using the Polish word for carnal lust. So Carter’s interest in their desires for the future came out more like “I want to know what you will all be doing in bed tonight.”

Then, when Carter mentioned that he would be leaving for home soon, that somehow got translated into words meaning that Carter had abandoned America forever. :dubious:

Story on Mental Floss site: President Jimmy Carter’s Carnal Mistake.

Another site with the story: Jimmy Carter REALLY Loves Poland

Google Jimmy Carter polish interpreter for more cites.