Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Friday, January 24, 2014

Syrian conference

(January 22, 2014)

On Wednesday, tons of world leaders were in Switzerland for a big meeting about Syria. So when all the main representatives came out to a press conference, the BBC Arabic carried it live.

First, Lakhdar Brahimi gave opening remarks in English:

Though he spoke in English for the moment, he is Algerian and speaks Arabic. I've heard him speak Arabic before, and I really like it. He speaks so nicely and clearly that I can understand as comfortably as though I was listening to music! Besides, he is Mr. A's friend. Enough said.

As you see here, there was a full audience:

Note also the heavy red markings the BBC Arabic has put on the screen. The different blocks of text say: "live", "immediate", and then give the place and the moment. That is how you know a news story is soon to become very conceited from all the attention it is getting!

The first question went to this reporter:

First he asked a question in English, while the trusty BBC Arabic translator stood at bat for us; and then he switched and asked a second question in Arabic, so our translator got to take a break.

The second person to answer questions alongside Mr. Brahimi was the UN Secretary-General himself. He did not answer in Arabic, but he did say "shukren jazilen" after the first question. That means "thank you very much." There was a murmur of laughs from the audience.

Lots of questions were asked in Arabic, but most of the reporters looked non-Arab. They all had black headphones they could wear to hear the translation. But a lot of the reporters were really sloppy about it. I saw hardly anyone put the headphones on.

But in the end, this was certainly not due to a lack of interest. Here are the reporters frantically waving their arms, trying to get the next turn for asking a question:

It's only three people standing up, but you should have heard the cries coming!

In the meantime, the third man sitting at the white table - the one to the right - was in charge of keeping order. He tried quite valiantly:

Hands in the defensive position!

Every time the order-keeper said "please calm down! everyone calm down! please sit down!" in English, our trusty translator would repeat in Arabic, so that we didn't miss a moment of the dramatics. 

When he announced that there would only be one more question, there was a near riot and it took a minute of him saying "please sit down! please, please sit down and calm down" because it was quiet enough to hear that troublesome last question.

 After all the fuss, we didn't even hear the Secretary-General's answer, because the BBC Arabic pulled away and returned to the studio and the regular news updates.

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