How would simultaneous interpreters interpret Trump's language

Translator Bérengère Viennot publishes book on “The Language of Donald Trump”

The French translator Bérengère Viennot has written her frustration from her soul and with The language of Donald Trump (La langue de Donald Trump) published the latest anti-Trump book.

Viennot lives in Paris and has worked as a translator for two decades. Over the years she has specialized in work for the media industry and mainly translates daily political articles into French, including for the Courrier international.

Shortly after Donald Trump's inauguration, she expressed her discomfort about his use of language in a newspaper article and on social media. Trump's speaking and writing (on Twitter) is drastically different from the language chosen by his predecessor Barack Obama, one of the greatest rhetorical talents of the past decade.

Reduced vocabulary, simple syntax, redundant use of language

Three years after inauguration, it is common knowledge that Donald Trump's vocabulary is reduced, syntax is simple, and usage is redundant.

One might think that this simplifies the understanding and thus the work of translators and interpreters, but the opposite is often the case. Imprecise formulations in particular result in a lack of clarity in the statement that is difficult for translators to interpret.

As a translator, Viennot is forced to understand what may be meant in order to be able to translate it adequately. If it stays close to the original, Trump's statements in other languages ​​often sound like bad translations.

She is not alone with her criticism of language from a politically left-wing perspective. Influential conservative commentators such as Ben Shapiro, who did not vote for Trump, have been pointing out for years that he is talking stupid "on a regular basis" and usually exaggerating excessively. The president's Republican party friends are also certain that he would do better in the polls if he just kept quiet.

The “Let Trump be Trump” strategy has so far been successful

On the other hand, the “Let Trump be Trump” strategy was successful in the last election. And Bérengère Viennot also praises the American president for his talent for short, concise form of expression. In conversation with the Austrian courier (03/11/2019) she says:

Trump is a very good communicator. He knows how to talk to people and win them over. As I said, his sentences are short, that probably has something to do with his way of thinking. It is also effective because we don't want to hear long sentences in our society. We want advertising and punchlines.

His brief descriptions of other actors in politics are also appropriate and successful: Crooked Hillary, Sleepy Joe (Biden), Pocahontas (Elizabeth Warren), Low Energy Jeb (Bush), Nervous Nancy (Pelosi), Sloppy Steve (Bannon), Fredo (Chris Cuomo) or Little Rocket Man (Kim Jong Un).

Overrating the language one déformation professionnelle of the intellectuals?

Translators and other intellectuals place increased value on language, appreciate polished expressions, believe that language is treacherous, that one can even change reality through language. An overvaluation?

As accurate as the analyzes of Trump's language may be, this type of language criticism is pointless for political debate. Because for at least half of the voters - and thus also for a possible re-election - this is irrelevant. Many voted for Trump precisely because he was up political correctness whistles.

Brad Todd: "For the first time, words don't matter"

With the realization “for the first time, words don't matter” Brad Todd Well described Donald Trump's speech before the election in 2016. He pointed out that voters take Trump seriously, but not literally. In the case of the media, however, it is fatally exactly the opposite: they take him at his word, but not seriously.

It's a familiar split. When he makes claims like this, the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.
(In: The Atlantic, 23.09.2016)

A little later, he elaborated this thought a little more concisely on CNN and headlined: Dear journalists: Stop taking Trump literally (November 28, 2016).

In fact, a not inconsiderable part of the electorate does not seem to attach great importance from experience to what politicians say and how they say it. They prefer to judge them by what they do, how much of their election promises they deliver. And in this respect Trump has quite a lot to show:

A booming economy with the lowest unemployment rate (3.5 percent) in 50 years (1969), along with the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded among blacks and Latinos. 6.4 million new jobs have been created since taking office. Relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem. Reduction of (from his point of view) anti-business environmental protection regulations and exit from the Paris climate agreement. De-escalation of tensions with North Korea. Withdrawal of American troops from Syria.

Much of it may be found politically wrong, but they are things that were promised in the election campaign and implemented in office. That should impress those who voted for Trump in 2016. It is to be expected that they will cast their vote for Donald Trump again in 2020.

Seen in this way, Bérengère Viennot is furious in her biting essay about something that is interesting for the assessment of Trump, but not particularly relevant with regard to his possible re-election.

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[Text: Richard Schneider.]