Meet the translators who hit headlines

Madhusudan R, Priyanka Sohoni & Nilakshi Saha Sinha
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Madhusudan R, Priyanka Sohoni & Nilakshi Saha Sinha

Three Indian Foreign Service officers and interpreters often accompany PM Narendra Modi during his meetings with foreign leaders. Madhusudan and Sohoni, both fluent in Mandarin, were in Mamallapuram when Modi met Chinese President Xi Jinping in December 2019. However, in 2018, while Modi was answering a question in Hindi during a Q&A session in Singapore, Saha Sinha’s English translation went much beyond what the PM had actually said, raising questions about whether she had read out a pre-written answer.

In Pic: (From left) Madhusudan R, Priyanka Sohoni & Nilakshi Saha Sinha.

Thupten Jinpa
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Thupten Jinpa

Born in Tibet and trained as a monk, Jinpa was part of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s inner circle and his principal English translator since 1985. Though he is no longer a monk, having married and started a family, he continues to translate for the Dalai Lama, as well as teach.

Zhang Lu
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Zhang Lu

The translator for Chinese leaders like former premier Wen Jiabao, Zhang, a career diplomat, has cultivated a fan following of her own. Admired for her poise and ability to translate classical Chinese literature, she became a celebrity online in 2010 after a flawless translation of ancient Chinese literature mentioned by Wen.


In Pic: Wen Jiabao with Zhang (right) in New Delhi in December 2010.

Sharon Choi
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Sharon Choi

The film award season has been dominated by South Korean director Bong Joon Ho, his film Parasite and his general air of nonchalance, but sharing the universal love was his translator, Choi, an aspiring Korean American filmmaker. Choi now has her own fan base with reactions on Twitter ranging from “Bong Joon ho’s translator will u marry me” to “Sharon Choi for President”.

Marina Gross
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Marina Gross

She was the only other American in the room when US President Donald Trump privately met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July 2018. The US State Department translator became the subject of global attention after US lawmakers wanted her to testify on what exactly happened at the meeting, since neither was an agenda published before the meeting nor a communique released afterwards.

In Pic: (From left) Marina Gross, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and his interpreter in Helsinki in 2018.

Viktor Sukhodrev
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Viktor Sukhodrev

He was the English translator for every Soviet leader since the 1950s for three decades. Sukhodrev became famous early in his career when he translated Nikita Khurshchev’s remarks to Western diplomats in Moscow in 1956 into a menacing: “We will bury you." Such was the confidence in his abilities that he was, at times, the sole interpreter for both sides, including at a meeting between US president Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.

In Pic: Sukhodrev (centre) with Leonid Brezhnev (left) and Richard Nixon, in Washington DC on June 23, 1973
(Source: The Guardian, SCMP, The BBC, Buzzfeed)

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