The “Duty” of an interpreter

Would you say anything, just because it’s your job? Or is there a point where you have to make stand?

The job of an interpreter is far from easy in any case – but what happens when you feel strongly against what is being said? This debate was brought to the fore last week when an Iranian interpreter omitted parts of a Donald trump speech.

Nima Chitsaz, the interpreter, defended his decision to effectively change President Trump’s speech during the parts which spoke about Iran. In a video, he said that he had decided against translating some parts of the speech because “first, these remarks were untrue. Second, they were against my country and they were against Iran.” He also said that he believed that anyone would have done the same in his position.

However, he faced widespread criticism on social media for his actions, with many people believing that as an interpreter, it’s his duty to interpret everything that was said, even if he didn’t agree.


Here’s some examples of what President Trump said in his speech, followed by how it was translated1:

“[The Islamic Republic of Iran] has turned a wealthy country, with a rich history and culture, into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos.”

In our opinion, the life of Iranians could be better


“The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear most.”

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The US military is strong. The people of Iran are also strong.


“This is what causes the regime to restrict Internet access, tear down satellite dishes, shoot unarmed student protestors, and imprison political reformers.”

There are so many things happening in Iran that we consider to be unacceptable.


So what do you think? Does an interpreter have a right to omit things if they believe them to be untrue?

Maybe you’re an interpreter who’s previously been in a similar position? If so, we’d love to hear from you!