Spain's Prime Minister: It Starts with an "F"

For weekend amusement for Spanish speakers, we had to share this funny video which one of our Viennese translation professor friends pointed us to. It features Spain's Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, talking about the importance of Spanish tourism to Russia. He wants to say "fomentar" which means "to boost", but he ends up saying "follar", which, well, is the vulgar equivalent of "to copulate". It's a very short video, and although he doesn't miss a beat after his f-word (in both Spanish and English) mistake, it's already made its way around the world.

It's proof that one language is certainly hard enough to handle (or proof of what he was really thinking about). I wonder how the Spanish->Russian interpreter handled this situation -- probably better than Zapatero!


Anonymous said...

I think he was aiming for "apoyar" rather than "fomentar."

The difference between "a follar" and "apoyar" (phonetically, at least) is minimal. Plus, he immediately corrects himself and says "apoyar."

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on March 7, 2009 at 7:52 AM said...

Ah, good point. I was unsure if he was going for "fomentar" or "apoyar" which is what he corrected himself with. Part of me thought he came up with "apoyar" on the fly to avoid another f-word? You are right, it's very close phonetically, but as Mark Twain said "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."

Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

That reminds me of Hillary Clinton's recent faux pas with Russian Foreign Minister. I wrote about it on my blog if you want to have a look.
Keep up the blogging - I love to read your posts!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on March 7, 2009 at 9:22 AM said...

Glad you like the blog, Sarah. We like yours, too, and just added it to our blog roll. We were in Berlin a few weeks ago for the Berlinale and to visit family and really enjoyed your city!

Margaret on March 7, 2009 at 9:52 AM said...

At Switch Off and Let’s Go, Beatriz looks at the tongue-slip (she also thinks he was aiming for apoyar), and considers how the mistake was explained in reports in English, French and Italian.

I suspect the mistake happened because he was unsure whether he was going to say fomentar or apoyar and ended up blending them.

Álvaro Degives-Más on March 19, 2009 at 4:36 PM said...

The instance in Russia with Clinton wasn't really a matter of "faux pas" but of fuzzy translation. As I understand it, that button read "overload" - i.e. the button you hit in case an overload occurs. So, it's not an exact translation of "reset" but semantically it's a decent one. Tangentially, her disarmingly charming amusement and immediate reaction upon being informed of the so-called "mistranslation" is curiously underreported. One can only guess how, oh say, her predecessor would have turned an amusing incident into a truly awkward moment.

If at all, I believe that the Russian guy was a bit slow on the uptake there, ostensibly expecting a literal or morphologically analogous equivalent of "reset" which is an issue I trust almost any translator runs into as well, leading into the ever amusing realm of false cognates and other atrocities committed against linguistic humanity.

Getting back on topic: yes, I agree, I also think poor José Luis conflated fomentar and apoyar and in the end, how shall I put this: mucked it up.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on March 19, 2009 at 5:08 PM said...

@Álvaro: good point about the Russian incident. Those one-word translations are, of course, very tricky, and we wish we spoke Russian to weigh in with some insight! And you are so right: Hillary certainly handled the situation much better than her predecesor would have, without doubt.

Poor José Luis; all this about one word, and without YouTube, this would be haunting him much less; but it's the downside of being in public office (and of Web 2.0). Thanks for reading!

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