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Lost In Translation

At first I was flattered when I saw Fars Agency had translated and reprinted my article about the impact of the global financial crisis on Iran's economy.

Then I was surprised – to say the least – when I actually read the Persian version of the article, especially its bold, new headline: “Radio Free Europe: Western Financial Crisis Won’t Have Any Impact on Iranian Economy.”

That sentence, which I can’t remember writing, is repeated several times throughout the Persian article.

The main point of the original story was the exact opposite. It quoted experts questioning Iranian leaders’ joy over the worldwide crisis, and casting doubt over Tehran's assertion that Iran wouldn't be touched by the economic turmoil.

The Persian translators changed the article so masterfully that most the original sentences and quotes are there.

But by taking out certain phrases, twisting some quotes and shortening some sentences, they completely changed the main message of the article.

And of course, they replaced the original headline, “Official Iranian Glee Over 'Failure Of Global Capitalism' Ignores Painful Realities.”

But all the changes were so professionally done that it took me a while until I realized the Fars article carried a very different message.

Still, I like to think that the key point of the story wasn’t changed on purpose, but was simply lost in translation.

-- Farangis Najibullah

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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