Volume 69, Issue 6
  • ISSN 0521-9744
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9668



During President Carter’s visit to Warsaw in 1977, his interpreter into Polish, Steven Seymour, allegedly made major mistakes. American journalists learned of these mistakes from their Polish colleagues and gloated over what they considered erotic overtones in Seymour’s interpretation. There is much literature on this episode, but no author has yet consulted the actual interpretation. I was able to obtain an archived audio recording of the entire episode from the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. In this article, I discuss Seymour’s choice of a sentence-by-sentence mode of interpretation and the problems inherent in that mode, classify his errors and inaccuracies, and attempt to uncover the reasons for the exaggerated criticism from the media and the interpreting community. Characteristically, the media paid no attention to the solemn, confident performance of Seymour’s Polish colleague, who interpreted Edward Gierek’s speech into English. The episode is a good testimony to the role of diplomatic interpreters, whose moment of glory only comes when they make a factual or imaginary mistake.

Available under the CC BY 4.0 license.

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