Last week, Nafissatou Diallo — the hotel maid who has accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, of attempted rape — spoke to the media about the incident. She claims to have been badly misquoted in a taped conversation being used by the defense to discredit her. The conversation was in her native dialect, Fulani, a West African language. Her claims highlight the difficulties of translation, and the weighty responsibility on translators and interpreters to get the tone and the meaning of words correct in cases like this.
Amanda Galsworthy knows all about the art of translation. She has been an interpreter for three French presidents, including Nicholas Sarkozy.