Translating and Interpreting Trump's Peculiar Political Style

January 18, 2018


It's undeniable that the current President doesn't have to worry about fading into obscurity with the media. All Trump has to do is answer a question, deliver a speech, make a remark, or post to his Twitter account and it becomes a "shot heard around the world." Although it is definitely not news when the British press openly criticizes political figures in their country, the Independent recently posted an online article about the analysis of the President's first 30,000 words in office. The study compared the off-script remarks (no prepared speeches) of the last fifteen U.S. Presidents and concluded that Trump scored the lowest since Herbert Hoover.

President Trump's less diverse vocabulary and simple grammatical structure suggests the 45th President speaks at the level of an 8 year old. But, is his frequent mangling of the English language part of his political genius. President Obama's "Affordable Care Act" scored at a reading level of 13.4 years of education (college sophomore). Congress's "Capital Budget Study" was rated at 18.2 years, which suggests the reading requirement of a third-year graduate student. By comparison, Ernest Hemingway's classic The Old Man and the Sea was written at a 4th grade level and could be read by an 8 year old.

The difficulty in translating and interpreting Donald Trump's rhetoric isn't limited to one part of the world. There appears to be a heartfelt need by interpreters and translators from numerous countries to clean up his run-on sentences and Twitter short forms. French journalists, Brazilian translators and Japanese interpreters are among those who have argued the "right and wrong" of altering statements that might otherwise seem derogatory, offensive or ignorant in their native tongue.  One Russian journalist suggested that Russian translators reportedly alter the President's language so he sounds more like Putin than he sounds like Trump.

It could take years of post-government office analysis to determine the lasting impact of Trump's off-the-cuff remarks and tweets. In the mean time, you can expect translators worldwide to continue to struggle with the interpreted meaning of Trump's discourse.

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