Translations: Gender Biased?

June 29, 2021

There are many sources of misinformation online, but here is one readers may not have considered—the spread of mistranslations, whether intentional or merely inept. The Taipei Times gives an example in, “Translation a Cover for False News.” We learn that Japan kindly donated 1.24 million doses of a Covid vaccine to Taiwan. Apparently, though, not everyone in Taiwan received the news with good grace. Writer Hung Yu-jui explains:

“They try to find fault with the AstraZeneca vaccine, talk about the donation in a sarcastic tone, and express pessimism about the relationship between Taiwan and Japan. It is very sad to see. Surprisingly, a social media post has been widely shared, saying that when Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi was asked in the Japanese legislature why the country only donated 1.24 million vaccines, he allegedly answered that the Taiwanese government had only asked for enough doses to meet its needs for this month, as locally made vaccines would soon become available. Having watched the video of the session, anyone with a good understanding of Japanese would know that Motegi did not make such a statement. The post was completely fabricated — a piece of vicious and despicable fake news. … Earlier this month, Hsinchu County Deputy Commissioner Chen Chien-hsien (???), the director of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) chapter in the county, shared the post of Motegi’s alleged vaccine statement on social media, adding some intentionally malicious comments.”

When confronted, Chen explained a friend who speaks Japanese had translated the speech for him, so he had been sure the translation was accurate. While it is good to trust one’s friends, this is a case where verification would have been in order. Unless, as Yu-jui seems to suspect, the wrong translation was intentional. Either way, this demonstrates yet another fake-news vector to watch out for.

Cynthia Murrell, June 29, 2021


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