When It’s Better To Go With A Translator

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 29 2012 @ 5:09pm

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Robert Mackey parses the odd interview that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi just gave to Time:

Speaking mainly in English, a language he has a fluent if idiosyncratic grasp of, the president attempted to explain himself in terms Americans might understand — making reference in one answer to "Good Morning America," Barbara Walters, the Iran hostage crisis, Charles Bronson and "Planet of the Apes." He observed, near the start of the discussion with the American journalists: "The world is now much more difficult than it was during your revolution. It’s even more difficult. The world. More complicated, complex, difficult. It’s a spaghettilike structure. It’s mixed up."

While the reference to the world’s "spaghettilike structure" attracted some attention from readers in Cairo, more puzzling still was the question of what, exactly, Mr. Morsi intended to say about his role in international diplomacy with his long aside about the 1960s science-fiction fantasy in which apes evolved from man.

Mackey tries to understand Morsi's musings on The Planet of the Apes:

While convoluted, the simplest reading of the president’s musings is that they had something to do with the moral of the film’s end, in which the orangutan known as Dr. Zaius, who held the high office of chief defender of the faith, explained to the human astronaut Taylor that mankind had proved unfit to rule the earth and destroyed itself through nuclear warfare.

Max Fisher reminds us that "English is not Morsi’s first language" and to "try to give him a sympathetic reading in that regard." But Hicham Nasr thinks Morsi should have known better than to try and speak English:

Mr. Morsi is an official representing one of the most populated Arabic speaking countries. Each word uttered by a politician of such a level should be well weighed and there should be no place for fragments and semi-fragments in a president’s speech. Isn’t it safer to use Arabic? It wouldn’t be a demerit at all. Arabic is one of the six official languages of UN. It is the mother tongue of more than 300 million people and the 4th most spoken language around the world. Regardless of its international status, it is more respectable for a president to speak the national language of his country.

(Image via Hossam Bahgat)