Oops! Someone Mistranslated the Pope's Tweets

January 31, 2013

By Ofer Tirosh


Pope Benedict XVI is now on Twitter, and he is translating his Tweets for English speakers who are interested in following him. His first Tweet was sent out in Latin on January 20, 2013 and was translated into English as; “What does the Lord ask of us as we work for Christian unity? To pray constantly, do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly with Him.”

But his Tweet and sub sequential translation has earned him criticism from scholars at Cambridge who inferred that the translation left out some of the nuances of the original Latin verse.   With all the press coverage leading up to the Pope’s first Tweet, others were also disappointed.  

To make matters worse, reporters covering the initial Tweet also messed up the Latin translation along the way, including the UK’s Guardian newspaper.  Lizzy Davies of Rome mistranslated and misquoted the secretary of Pontificial Academy for Latin Studies when she said, “Twitter is a tool which requires rapid communication. In English you say ‘the corruption of the best one is horrible’; in Latin, three words suffice: ‘corrupt optima pessima. It is a language which helps to think with precision and sobriety. And it has produced an exceptional heritage of science, knowledge and faith.”

The correct translation should have been “corruptio optimi pessima.”

This whole Pope Twitter debacle just goes to reiterate the point that when translation is involved, there’s always room for errors and miscommunication. Hence why it’s important to choose a professional translation service that has  full understand of any language being translated.



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