Translating Trump: Why The President’s World Travels May Provide Special Challenges

When President Trump embarked on the inaugural European tour of his young presidency last month, a few things may have gotten lost in translation.

Specifically, no matter what you may think about what Trump has to say, there's an unusual style and cadence to the way he says it.

Dr. Erik Garrett, associate professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Duquesne University, said there are a few reasons why it might prove difficult to translate Trump into another language:

  • Many words and ideas don't directly translate from one language to another, as translation is an art
  • Language is very culturally specific, so even within the same group of language speakers, words and slang can be embedded in particular groups
  • Trump's preferred choice of medium is Twitter, which in itself is not a medium that has often garnered the attention of professional translators. And its limit of 140 characters makes improvising essential
  • Presidential rhetoric expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson has pointed out that Trump's style relies on "stream of consciousness," making way for more inaccurate, filler and throw-away words
  • Trump also speaks in a very informal, conversational way with a lot of asides and non-sequiturs, using pathos instead of logos and simple, populist-based language
  • His manner of speaking mirrors the structure of stand-up comics with its organizational structure-or lack thereof.

Feel free to use Dr. Garrett's quotes verbatim, with attribution, or contact Jill Greenwood at 412.396.1154/office or 412.736.1877/cell to arrange an interview.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim. 

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