Lost in translation at the Pistorius trial

Another controversy with a translator has played out at the athlete’s murder trial in a Pretoria court.

Oscar Pistorius walks past June Steenkamp as he entered Pretoria High Court ahead of the first day of his murder trial on 3 March 2014. Picture: Sapa.

PRETORIA - Another translation controversy has played out before the world's media, with the Oscar Pistorius murder trial being disrupted by confusion over a witness's Afrikaans testimony.

The Olympic and Paralympic athlete is accused of murdering his 29-year-old girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his Pretoria East home on Valentine's Day last year.

Oscar Pistorius is escorted into the Pretoria High Court ahead of his murder trial on 3 March. Picture: Sebabatso Mosamo/EWN.

The state's first witness, neighbour Michelle Burger, battled with the translator's interpretation of her testimony, which was given in Afrikaans.

Last year, a scandal erupted at former president Nelson Mandela's memorial service at FNB Stadium when translator Thamsanqa Jantjies suffered what he described as a schizophrenic episode. He was accused of making references to prawns and rocking horses instead of displaying what speakers were saying.

As with the memorial service, the eyes of the world were firmly on the Pistorius murder trial.

In court on Monday, Pistorius's legal team waged a full-scale war on the state's case.

Defence Advocate Barry Roux. Picture: Sapa.

Burger's every word, which is crucial to both sides, appears to have been lost in translation.

"She [the interpreter] wanted to answer my question, but then the advocate [Barry Roux] didn't give her a chance and he started translating before she could answer. She was answering his next question and she wasn't interpreting what I was saying," the witness told the court.

Eventually, Burger volunteered to testify in English as much as she could.

"I'm willing to speak English and in some circumstances, I can go over into Afrikaans, where she will translate for me."

It is still not clear whether a new interpreter will be brought in.

The state has 107 witnesses lined up for the trial.