President Jimmy Carter knew what it was like to have a sub-standard interpreter working for him. In a speech he gave on his Presidential visit to Poland, in 1977, his interpreter translated the word desires to the polish equivalent of lusts. It turned out Carter had said he wanted to discover more about the Polish people’s ‘desires for the future’.
But the comedy didn’t stop there. The interpreter also translated “I left the United States this morning” into “I left the United States, never to return”; according to Time magazine, even the innocent statement that Carter was happy to be in Poland became the claim that “he was happy to grasp at Poland’s private parts”.
Unsurprisingly, the Whitehouse booked a different interpreter when he gave a toast at a state banquet later in the same trip – but his woes didn’t end there. After delivering his first line, Carter paused, to be met with silence. After another line, he was again followed by silence. The new interpreter, who couldn’t understand the President’s southern drawl, had decided his best policy was to keep quiet. By the time Carter’s trip ended, he had become the punchline for many a Polish joke.