Translating Trump

Translating Trump"Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest –and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure,it's not your fault" 

How would you translate this if you knew it would be seen by millions? Will you keep to the same childish tone or make it slightly more presidential? Something as trivial as putting a space after the comma is already an alteration to the original text, and not every translator would agree that that's morally justified.

This is a daily problem that translators face today. Translating politicians wasn't a big problem until Trump showed up, since he is the first President to use this kind of language. His twitter rants, sometimes vulgar, insensitive and containing spelling errors, must be translated into hundreds of languages, however. Louisa Van Aeken discusses how translators solve this problem and the risks that are involved in doing so.

Louisa Van Aeken is studying French, Italian, Latin and History at Queenswood school just outside London. During her stay at The Language Sector in Ghent, she tackled this subject by creating the Trumpslation Quiz. She has since written an interesting article in which she provides an in-depth analysis on the matter. She provides arguments for "verbatim" (literal) translations and "oblique" (adapted) translations.

(Try the Quiz:


Intrigued by Trump's language? Come try the Trumpslation Quiz!

Trumpslation QuizYou are surrounded!

You are surrounded by language every day. So just how aware are you of the essential role played by language in your life? Are you really able to perceive the - sometimes beautiful, sometimes dangerous - effects language has on you?

Let's take Donald Trump's tweets for instance. Everybody will agree that he influences public opinion in several ways. This is through the images he uses, through his sometimes offensive language and, as some people would say, through his stupid messages – grammar and spelling mistakes included.

So, he influences public opinion. (Well, maybe not yours. Every rule needs an exception to prove it.)

Do you have direct access to Trump's tweets in your mother tongue? Or do they come to you in your second, third or fourth language?

Or in translation? Here’s some shocking news for you: Louisa spoke to French, Russian, Italian and Dutch translators about how to translate some of Trump's allegedly stupid and offensive tweets and guess what: they all agreed that Trump should be translated literally and that any stupid and offensive English tweets should be translated into stupid and offensive French, Russian, Italian and Dutch.

But what about bad English grammar and spelling errors? Should they be included? This question caused our translators to start to think about the consequences for their own reputation. How dumb, offensive and grammatically wrong can my translation be without risking my reputation as a translator? (No, tweets don't come with footnotes.)

And you can probably guess what these translators decided next.


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Make yourself heard and send your workpiece to

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Handbook or Translation Studies

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