The other day my 11 year old Portuguese niece begged me to help her out with her English homework. She had written a short essay and she asked if I could go over it. I couldn’t help but notice her very first sentence: “I waked up at 7am to go to school.”

When I asked her what was wrong with it she immediately replied: “waking up at 7am, that’s way too early for me.”

Close enough, I thought, but not exactly.

Iraq, Hiroshima and Vietnam have more in common than the tragedies of war; in fact, they might have turned out rather differently if the world had paid attention to one minor detail… 

Mistranslation is often amusing. Badly translated menus snapshotted on holiday spread across social media in minutes. But what happens when context is more important than what you’ll eat for the main course? 

In politics, that’s even more significant. A simple mistake can lead into an act of war.

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