Thursday, December 10, 2009

instead of sending more troops, how about paying for trained interpreters?

I am disgusted that huge sums of money are being misspent to send poor young people from the United States with few other options at home to do far more harm than good in Afghanistan - but here is a new twist on how screwed up the whole enterprise is: they are using completely useless untrained interpreters, and clearly not training troops on how to use interpreters! This video (by the Guardian) of a US soldier trying to speak to an elder in Afghanistan through an interpreter is seriously damning. I couldn't find a way to embed the video, but it is well worth watching the subtitled short bit that starts around 3:30 minutes in.

Kudos to the Guardian for getting this subtitled and exposing the abysmal (worse than nothing) interpreting - but they completely misread the situation with their headline: "When the US 173rd Airborne's Charlie Company try to speak to a Pashtun elder, the gulf is so great even the interpreters have given up interpreting." No, in fact the problem is not a cultural gulf, the problem is utter lack of training and competency. This interpreter really never even begins to try to interpret. He clearly has no training in interpreting, and the soldier clearly has no idea what interpreting looks like or involves. What a royal mess. Yankees, come home now.
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