Lost in translation: Locsin’s tweet gets ‘distorted’ in Chinese social media

Published March 25, 2021, 3:59 PM

by Roy Mabasa

One of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.’s most recent tweets has apparently created a stir in Chinese social media, prompting him to call the attention of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to correct what he described as “totalitarian distortions” of his English expression.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. (PNA)

The tweet in question refers to the one that Locsin posted on Sunday that pertains to his order to “fire at will” or to file a diplomatic protest against China over the intrusions of more than 200 of its vessels near the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). 

“Chinese Embassy said that in Chinese social media my expression ‘fire at will’ —  unmistakably our diplomatic protest — is portrayed in Chinese characters as an order to fire guns at Chinese boats. I am not responsible for totalitarian distortions of plain English. Correct it yourself,” the foreign affairs chief said in a tweet on Thursday.

The DFA secretary even jokingly told the Chinese Embassy in a separate tweet that the beautiful Chinese translator, Zhang Jing, who interpreted Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi’s 15-minute opening speech during the high-level US-China meeting in Alaska last week should do the translation of his tweets.

“@Chinaembmanila The beautiful and much smarter Chinese translator at Anchorage should translate my tweets next time. She was, though it was the longest statement in modern diplomacy, unfailingly accurate, idiomatic and true in her transliteration… no more, interpretation. Kudos,” he said.

Shortly after getting details on the situation in Julian Felipe Reef on Sunday, Locsin tweeted: “So recommended by General (Hermogenes) Esperon this noon by WhatsApp. I got coordinates, so to speak. And relayed to my legal artillery, ‘Fire at will.’ Shell should be flying at first light. I don’t usually announce maneuvers but it seems everybody is baring his chest.”