Recommended by my former professor.
When the new leader of the Chinese Communist Party stepped on stage Thursday nearly an hour later than scheduled, he acknowledged the delay by saying, “让大家久等了” – which, as a beginning Chinese student can tell you, literally translates to “made everybody wait a long time.” But in English, the interpreter at the event turned it into “sorry to have kept you waiting.”
People appeared to generally agree that Mr. Xi’s comment conveyed a sense of mild regret either way, with many Chinese observers on the Sina Weibo microblogging service praising Mr. Xi for apologizing. Still, the difference sparked good-natured discussion among people who watch the intersection between translation, politics and culture in China.
“Personally I’d go for fidelity and say ‘I’ve kept everyone waiting,’ without the appended ‘Sorry.’ Implicit in English too,” wrote Kaiser Kuo, a spokesman for search company Baidu Inc. and frequent commenter on current events in China, on his Twitter account.
Brendan O’Kane, a Beijing writer and translator, sided with those who would add the “sorry” as a matter of context. Mr. Xi’s comment “serves more or less the same function as ‘sorry to keep everyone waiting’: a perfunctory apology by acknowledgement of inconvenience,” he said in a note.
I think “sorry” was properly used. It didn’t need to mean “deep regret” or anything, but to say “I’ve kept everyone waiting” seems more unapologetic than anything, while as in Chinese, there is a very implicit “my apologies” feel to the sentence. Anyway, nice to see that the nuances of a language and their interpretations don’t go overlooked by non-comparative literature/linguistic majors.