- Posted by Stephen Whiteley
- On 16/07/2019
TRANSLATING DONALD TRUMP, A BIGLY DIFFICULT TASK
Ok, not trying to over flog this stuff; but the thing is, translating Donald Trump really is difficult. In fact, it makes the life and work of a professional translator “bigly difficult.” What does “bigly” even mean? Was he actually referring to the “big league”?
So imagine what it’s like to translating Donald Trump, otherwise known as “Trump speak”. You don’t know what he will say next. He can manufacture words on the fly, and – wait for it – struggle to make sense of his unique incoherent way of speaking.
THE WORDS OF THE MOST POWERFUL MAN ON EARTH
In any case, all this wouldn’t have mattered if it was just some guy. Here, we are talking about the most powerful man on the planet – whose words carry might weight.
A slight misinterpretation could trigger serious diplomatic row; cause people to lose their source of livelihood, and even be the precursor to violent protests – yet he somehow manages not to be concise, clear, and coherent in his speeches.
A PROFESSIONAL TRANSLATOR’S OPINION
Speaking to the LA Review of Books, French Translator Berengere Viennot said:
“he [referring to Trump] seems not to know quite where he’s going, Trump’s vocabulary is limited, his syntax is broken; he repeats the same phrases over and over, forcing the translator to follow suit. It’s as if he had thematic clouds in his head that he would pick from with no need of a logical thread to link them.”
A PROBLEM FOR TRANSLATORS
Now, this becomes a problem for translators, especially when translating to French, a more logical, more structured language. It leads to a huge dilemma for translators as they grapple with prioritizing meaning over style.
Unfortunately, this is new for political speech translators. The reality today, is a far cry from the polished, crisp delivery of coherent speeches they are used to. Trump’s speech style had turned everything on its head.
THE GRAMMAR OF TRUMP SPEAK
Furthermore, according to a study by Carnegie Mellon University, where they analyzed presidential Candidates speeches on the campaign trail, found that the grammar of Trump’s speeches was below that of grade six child.
In addition, the challenge for translators as noted by Berengere is “whether to translate literally, which would mean foreign-language speakers would struggle with the content, or do they massage the language to make it, a little bit more intelligible.”
TRUMP SPEAK AND APPROPPRIATENESS
In a bid to charm the French First Lady, he approvingly told Brigitte Macron her body looks “beautiful,” then, turning to President Emmanuel Macron said, “She’s in such a good physical shape!”
Translating this inappropriate comment for the French audience was quite a challenge. In fact, most translators opted for the more respectable “Vous etes en grande forme”. To the French people it read “you are in great health.”
TRANSLATING DONALD TRUMP – SHOULD WE DO IT LITERALLY?
As expected, there’s a raging debate within the translation community whether Trump’s controversial rhetoric should be translated literally, or toned down and rendered respectable.
TRANSLATING DONALD TRUMP – CONCLUSION
In conclusion, some argue that we should translate President Trump the way he speaks. Others believe translators should censor his inflammatory language. What do you think?