Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Translation woes hamper proceedings




Translation woes hamper proceedings

Translation woes hamper proceedings

As testimony for the week wrapped up Thursday, defense attorney Francois Roux raised an issue that has noticeably impeded proceedings the last few days: translation. As the chamber finished its questioning about M-13 detention camp and moved on to interrogating Duch about S-21, a good deal of what was said was lost in the semi-simultaneous Khmer-English-French translation.

I hate to spend too much time dwelling on this issue, because, in many ways translation is a thankless job and it seems the translators at the court are probably stretched to their limits. However, there were numerous times this week when the entire meaning of an exchange would be lost to French and English speakers -- and, when actors in the courtroom itself had trouble understanding each other.

For example, late Wednesday afternoon Duch kept trying to explain the modes of horizontal and vertical communication available when he was chief of S-21. But "horizontal" and "vertical" kept getting bungled in the translation, relaying the exact opposite meaning of what Duch was saying to English/French speakers.

Hopefully the judges addressed this issue Thursday afternoon, when they held a session out of public view to discuss administrative matters. I'm sure the problem is largely one of resources, and I don't completely know how they will remedy that. However, I have a few simple suggestions in the meantime for improving communication and comprehension at the court:

1. Make people speak slowly. Judges and prosecutors interrupted Duch several times, asking that he slow down so translators could keep up -- but it wasn't enough. Such measures will have to be more systematically enforced.

2. Create a system whereby proper nouns can be projected for everyone in the courtroom to see. Because many of the names (of both people and places) used in testimony are in Khmer, it can be hard for non-Khmer speakers to clearly understand them and follow along.

3. Redouble efforts to find a direct Khmer-French translator. I was shocked to learn this week that there is no direct Khmer-French simultaneous translation at the court. Apparently, when Khmer is spoken during proceedings, it is first translated into English and then into French. I listen to the English translation and know I miss a huge amount of what is said, so I can't imagine what French speakers are getting.

I asked spokesperson Helen Jarvis about this issue today, and she said the court has been unable to find a qualified Khmer-French translator. If you know anyone who might have the necessary qualifications, urge them to apply!

MOST VIEWED

  • Body of woman killed in Bangkok returns

    The Cambodian embassy in Thailand is working to repatriate the body of a casino dealer who was shot dead in Bangkok on Monday night. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesman Kuy Kuong told The Post on Wednesday that officials are preparing paperwork to

  • Chikungunya hits 15 provinces, says gov’t

    Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said on Thursday that the chikungunya outbreak in the Kingdom has spread to 15 provinces. Some 1,700 people are now suspected to have the disease. Vandine urged people to prevent its further spread by eliminating shelters for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

  • Gov’t exempts visa A and B holders from Covid fees

    Airline passengers who are diplomats and officials of international organisations holding Type A and B visas for travel to Cambodia are exempted from paying Covid-19 testing fees, said the Ministry of Health in its latest adjustment of rules on Wednesday. Health Minister Mam Bun Heng

  • Bill covering dress code draws ire

    Ministry of Interior secretary of state Ouk Kim Lek responded on Tuesday to criticism concerning a draft law that would ban women from wearing overly revealing clothing, saying that input from all parties will be considered as the law moves through the promulgation process. Several

  • Passing the test: Is Cambodia’s education system failing its people?

    The Kingdom’s education system needs to grow its people but some flaws might stifle​ this growth Coming from the Khmer Rouge occupation, with the loss of many scholars and academicians and a collapsed government, the education system had to be reconstructed from scratch – one

  • What’s the deal with Cambodia and China’s FTA?

    Cambodia’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China kicks off a series of FTAs in future but for now, critics wonder what else the parties could bring to the table apart from what it already has to date By the end of this year, Cambodia