‘Bad French’ in Ossetia/Übersetzungsprobleme in Ossetien

It appears from an article in the Telegraph that something went wrong with the translation of the Russia-Georgia ceasefire agreement from French into Russian.

Bernard Kouchner told a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the weekend that the ceasefire agreement was written in French before being translated into English and then Russian. Asked what problems surrounded the buffer zones, Mr Kouchner replied: “The translation, as always.”

The Russian version allegedly speaks of security ‘for’ South Ossetia and Abkhazia, whereas the English version speaks of security ‘in’ the two areas. There is no mention of a Georgian version.

The Telegraph seems to view the problem not as the translation, but as the very fact that the agreement was written in French. Hmm. If French speakers were involved, that doesn’t sound very convincing.

The farce is a huge blow to the French belief that theirs is a lingua franca, spoken and understood the world over.

In fact French has long been replaced by English as the language of diplomacy, and is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the international community.

It’s also hard to see what is the relevance of the Académie française objecting to ‘le weekend’ and ‘le parking’ in French.

LATER NOTE: Here’s a quote from an article in Le Monde:

Le ministre français des affaires étrangères Bernard Kouchner a confirmé samedi 5 septembre qu'”un problème de traduction” contribuait à des interprétations différentes, par les Russes et les Géorgiens, du plan de paix négocié le 12 août par le président Sarkozy. Il confirme ainsi ce qu’avait déjà indiqué, sous couvert de l’anonymat, un responsable russe, expliquant que “dans la version russe, le texte évoque la sécurité DE l’Abkhazie et DE l’Ossétie du Sud”, alors que “dans le document transmis à Saakachvili”, en version anglaise, “cela a été présenté comme EN Abkhazie et EN Ossétie du Sud”.

Thanks to Marc

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