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..or “how not to commission a translation”!<\h2>

Homeland”, a American TV series based on Homeland Security issues, is massively popular on both sides of the Atlantic, and Series 5 was eagerly awaited.

Unfortunately, the new series has had more publicity for an embarrassing failure to check the accuracy of translations it used, rather than for the quality of its scripts or acting.

To make the backgrounds of a “Syrian refugee camp” more realistic the show commissioned some Arabic-speaking graffiti artists to paint slogans on the set. These looked great, and really added to the atmosphere – unfortunately no-one thought to check the slogans or have them translated into English before broadcast. This meant that the graffiti artists’ cheeky comments went unnoticed until fans at home saw them.

It was not that the translations were wrong, more that the graffiti artists departed from the commission they had been given, deliberately, to make a political point, and to mock “Homeland”, which they saw as “… the most bigoted show on television for its inaccurate, undifferentiated and highly biased depiction of Arabs, Pakistanis, and Afghans, as well as its gross misrepresentations of the cities of Beirut, Islamabad- and the so-called Muslim world in general”.

Among the slogans were “Homeland is racist”, “Homeland is watermelon” (meaning it is a sham or cannot be taken seriously), and “Homeland is a joke, and it didn’t make us laugh”. The graffiti artists claimed that to the set designers “Arabic is merely a supplementary visual” and that they were more concerned with the look of the set rather than the meaning of the slogans.

How can you avoid issues when commissioning translations?<\h2>

  • Use a reputable translation company that will take your translation project seriously
  • Be sure your instructions are clear to avoid genuine misunderstandings
  • If you have any doubts, run the translation past a native speaker of the language whose opinion you trust