CtiTV apologizes over its Chomsky ‘mistranslations’

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Feb 05, 2013 - Page 1

CtiTV yesterday apologized for what it described as a “negligent” translation of its interview with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Noam Chomsky about the ongoing controversy over the movement against media monopolization in Taiwan.

The interview, conducted last week by CtiTV Washington bureau chief John Zang (臧國華), came in the wake of a series of articles in the Chinese-language China Times — part of the Want Want China Times Group (旺旺中時集團) — alleging that Taiwanese graduate student Lin Ting-an (林庭安) had deceived Chomsky by failing to explain the slogan on a placard the professor was photographed holding that denounced “China’s black hands” interfering in local media.

Lin had contacted the 84-year-old Chomsky by e-mail to provide him with background information on the movement and fears of Chinese influence in Taiwanese media before visiting him at MIT. She made the e-mail public last week and said she had explained the situation to Chomsky before the photograph was taken.

As reported by the Taipei Times on Saturday, Chomsky said in an official e-mail response that he did not fully understand the contents of the placard, but denied that he was misled by Lin, blaming the “misunderstanding” on his inability to read Chinese.

In his CtiTV interview with Zang, which was aired on Saturday, Chomsky said he was “misled by my lack of ability to read Chinese,” adding that he could not understand what was on the placard.

“I still don’t know what it says,” he said.

After a narration by Zang, Chomsky then said: “Sometimes it’s a conscious effort to misuse … I found out about such cases so often.”

The comments were not given any context, making it unclear if they were related to the placard, Lin’s approach or any of the sensitive political issues the professor has involved himself with over the decades.

However, Zang tied Chomsky’s remarks firmly to the controversy through a voiceover.

Soon after the interview was aired, people in the movement against media monopolization said that the captions accompanying the segment were also “misleading.”

To prove their point, they then uploaded a video on YouTube with a split screen comparing the translation made by CtiTV on the left-hand side with more accurate captioning on the right.

“Do they think we don’t understand English?” one person said in a Facebook post accompanying a link to the original interview.

In a brief statement on its Web site posted yesterday at about noon, CtiTV apologized for the poor translation of Chomsky’s remarks during the interview and attributed the errors to “negligence.”

It said the segment would be reviewed and improved.

Netizens immediately responded that the apology was inadequate, adding that they strongly doubted the errors were the result of negligent translation, but rather a deliberate attempt to mislead viewers.