Voices
in
Japan

quote of the day

One of the difficulties of translating Trump’s tweets is honestly that he uses such childish and informal grammar that the translator is almost at risk of not sounding entirely credible. [You’d lose face]. He also has a tendency to use a lot of buzzwords and even slang that could be tricky to translate coherently into Japanese.

40 Comments

Shizuka Anderson, a professional interpreter, saying that translating U.S. President Donald Trump's tweets is like walking through a field of linguistic landmines.

© Daily Beast

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

40 Comments
Login to comment

Hmm. We have the same problem in America....

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Politicized statement. If the interpreter was truly “professional” and bi lingual he or she would have no literal problem translating it.

Now maybe they would feel averse to translating it, but that’s a whole different story.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

If the interpreter was truly “professional” and bi lingual he or she would have no literal problem translating it.

Say what? Half the time what he says in English is mostly gibberish, and empty without substance. Trying to force that into Japanese on the fly would be ridiculously hard, if not impossible.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

This is an interpreter, but she is talking about translating tweets.

Conversion on the fly, i.e., interpreting, has a wide error of margin that accounts for the fast response time required. Sometimes it's enough to express the general sentiment of the comment.

Conversion of the written word, i.e., translation, does not have such severe time constraints and should have a narrow margin of error. Slang and buzzwords should not throw any translator, who should be competent and diligent enough to look for the best translation. Covfefe aside, the issue I guess with Trump is that his tweets lack the decorum people usually associate with a leader. Translations that give his tweets such decorum in another language are, in my opinion, mistranslations. I think it would be entirely appropriate to translate Trump using childish expressions like "iya da" in Japanese.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The quote is from a longer article by Jake Adelstein which explains a little more succinctly the difficulty of getting one's head around Trump's words.

thedailybeast.com/trumps-japan-visit-was-yes-lost-in-translation

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Trump’s tweets basically fall into the categories of grandstanding, lies, trash and stupid s### although some tweets could fall into more than one category. I’m not sure how much it is necessary to translate this nonsense word for word - it’s not as if the non-English speaking world is going to be enriched by reading a gem of wit and literary style.

Just give the repulsive flavour of them if you have to.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Trump’s tweets basically fall into the categories of grandstanding, lies, trash and stupid s### although some tweets could fall into more than one category. I’m not sure how much it is necessary to translate this nonsense word for word - it’s not as if the non-English speaking world is going to be enriched by reading a gem of wit and literary style. 

Just give the repulsive flavour of them if you have to.

Ok, so the pompous, so called educated elites worry more about the Tweets than the overall message? Liberals think for some reason a piece of sheepskin makes them credible and the smartest tool in the shed. If you live to hear and feed off people that know the Webster dictionary in and out, that’s your prerogative, many of us care more about the action than the blabbering words of some empty suit college elite adjunct professor that is all talk and substance. At the end of the liberals have just that, so called smarts (lol) pride and that’s it. 1000 legislative seats lost, but at least the libs have all that education and it shows. Lol

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

You are mixing your disdain for Trump with the issues.

The issue is that an enterpreter is stating that Trump is untranslatable.

Thats not fact, and if it were, the problem would be with the translator, not the speaker. Some are easier to translate, some are more intelligent, others are well...like Donald Trump. But don’t tell me you are bi lingual and then state you can’t translate.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

@thepersoniamnow - I agree with you completely. I do in fact dislike Trump and feel he is not qualified for office. I also feel he should not be Tweeting.

However you are 100% correct, a true professional translator (well qualified) could translate his tweets with no problem.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I wonder how many of the 'a real translator can translate Trump no problem' crowd actually earn their living as translators.

The aim of a good translation is to convey the meaning of what the subject is saying. If the subject is simply blowing hot air (not only Trump, a lot of copy-writing also falls into this category), it's often impossible to provide a truly faithful translation because you cannot translate something that has no meaning in the first place.

With Trump you have the added problem that his speech/twittering is often ungrammatical and ambiguous. If a tweet can be taken in more than one way, which meaning do you translate? Whichever you choose, you're making a political decision that is not yours to make.

And as the quote points out, translate Trump into Japanese at the same childish level as his English tends to be, and you run the risk of ruining your own reputation as a translator; after all, no one (in Japan) expects a president to sound like a three-year-old, and it's likely the poor translation (which would actually be a perfectly accurate translation) would be seen to be the fault of the translator.

Speaking as a true professional translator (well qualified and bilingual) , I would not relish the task of translating Trump's infantile twitterings.

Rubbish in, rubbish out.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Thats not fact, and if it were, the problem would be with the translator, not the speaker. Some are easier to translate, some are more intelligent, others are well...like Donald Trump. But don’t tell me you are bi lingual and then state you can’t translate.

I agree, if you can’t translate what Trump says or basic English, then you need to look for another line of work.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

The crunch is, not as some suggest that a professional translator should be able to translate, but rather the disbelief in the readers/listeners minds that the translation is accurate.

Why?

Because Trump's tweets and blurts, while translatable of course, often defy timing, sense, word knowledge or logic at that particular moment, and so people believe the translator has made a mistake.

Literally it seems, people can't believe a US President would say such things or in such a manner - which then all falls back onto the translator.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Here’s an example of a tweet which falls into the categories of lies and trash:

Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?

What a waste of time and education it is to have educated, professional people translating this rancid trash. It’s an insult. I wouldn’t give this to sub-tabloid idiocy to the very literate translator who translates my stuff.

As I said, just give the flavour of it. Wasting time trying to translate this rank stupidity accurately is a waste of the human intellect. There are better things to do.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

agree with her

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It’s so simple yet she can’t translate it? Needs another type of work then.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

It’s so simple yet she can’t translate it? Needs another type of work then.

"These professional translators who translate everyone else's comments without troubles can't translate our president's comments? They must be incompetent. It's not possible our president could just be a moron"

Facepalm.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

It’s so simple

Where does she claim it's 'simple'? She says 'childish and informal grammar', which is a polite way of saying his grammar is all over the place, i.e. he doesn't speak in joined-up sentences like a grown-up.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?

Why wouldnt she be able to translate this? would take some effort to find out who is Crooked Hillary and who is Alicia M and for what purpose Hillary would have helped her to become a US citizen, then you translate it.

childish to mean means simple as does informal grammar. but to each his own. If you cant translate it, then dont work as a translator or leave it to someone who can. very unprofessional to insult someone just because it makes your own job a little harder to do.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

and by the way, the topic is his TWEETS. So yeah wouldnt be any complete sentences, complete thoughts or standard grammar. But whatever fits the Trump is stupid narrative, go for it.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?

Why wouldnt she be able to translate this? would take some effort to find out who is Crooked Hillary and who is Alicia M and for what purpose Hillary would have helped her to become a US citizen, then you translate it.

You are missing my point. The tweet can be translated but I don't see the point in wasting time on this garbage. You are talking about someone calling a woman disgusting and asking people to search for a sex tape which doesn't exist. This is steaming, revolting crap which no person should waste time and effort translating accurately.

It's like trying to accurately capture in words the sound of someone breaking wind.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

browny1, good article linked in your post above. :thumbsup:

0 ( +0 / -0 )

childish to mean means simple as does informal grammar. but to each his own.

...Arrest my case.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

As another professional translator chiming in, I agree that there seems to be some misunderstanding regarding the translator's role. The translator is not a copy editor; their job is not to polish the writing, refine the word choices, add things that are missing, etc. Their job is to convey the original content, tone, and style as FAITHFULLY and ACCURATELY as possible. In the case of Trump, that means the Japanese output may sound childish, disjointed, illogical, etc. Naturally, many readers will blame this on the translator because they could never imagine that an important public figure would have such a poor command of language.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

@blacklablel

and by the way, the topic is his TWEETS. So yeah wouldnt be any complete sentences, complete thoughts or standard grammar. But whatever fits the Trump is stupid narrative, go for it.

Unfortunately, the problem is not just his tweets though is it?

It's every time he talks without a scriptwriter.

Take a look at the famous example below. I'm guessing you've seen it already.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2015/07/31/donald_trump_this_run_on_sentence_from_a_speech_in_sun_city_south_carolina.html

"Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I'm one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you're a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what's going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what's going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it's all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don't, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us".

Going back to our topic, this sort of 'word salad' is obviously a nightmare for a translator. It is strange that anyone would think otherwise. Why would you deny that Trump communicates by simply stringing together whatever thoughts come into his head? The evidence is right there this video.

It is interesting that we have professional translators on this thread testifying that Trump makes no sense while we have Trump supporters, without knowledge of linguistics, contradicting the professional translators in their desperation to support their man.

By the way, the lack of logical thought shown by Trump, as revealed in his language usage, is one of the reasons why people, both on the left and on the right, just cannot trust him (now George H.W. has revealed he voted for Hilary, you can't just blame "the left", unless you now think George H.W. is a leftist).

If are a Trump supporter and wondering why people are always calling you names and suggesting you are 'stupid' or a 'moron', well, you just need to look at the above. How can anyone read through that and think "this is a man I trust, this is a man who should have responsibility, this is a man who should lead"?

Honestly, Bass, Blacklabel, I don't wish to be rude, but what did you guys learn in school? Do you really read the above text, watch the above video, and think, yeah, that's sensible and coherent, that's the man that needs to be the most powerful person on the planet.

I just don't get it. We don't even need to get on to the p**** grabbing, the bone spurs, the $25 million, dollar settlement for defrauding elderly people, the lying about Muslim's celebrating 9/11, the lying about not being able to release his tax return because it is under audit (actually, whatever happened to that?) and all the other nonsense.

Trump's untranslatable communication style should be enough to disqualify him from the presidency as it is obvious that someone who cannot communicate cannot grasp information and someone who cannot grasp information cannot make good decisions.

Why do you support him? If you like his economic policy and protectionist agenda, surely there is a better communicator more adequately equipped to put those plans in place?

Did your schoolteachers talk like this? Your fathers? Your priests? Does anyone else you respect communicate like this?. It's just the disorganized babble of a conman and millions of us are completely unable to understand why some of you cannot recognize it.

He's like a cult leader who spouts nonsense to his nodding followers - the nodding followers are afraid to admit that it is nonsense, even though, in their hearts, they no their naked Emperor makes no sense at all.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

In the case of Trump, that means the Japanese output may sound childish, disjointed, illogical, etc. Naturally, many readers will blame this on the translator because they could never imagine that an important public figure would have such a poor command of language.

Although I agree with the first part of your analysis I do think that you, as well as Shizuka Anderson and a few other posters on here, grossly underestimate 'us' the general public. Most ppl know that DT has a (very) limited yet colourful vocabulary as local journos have been commenting on that since day 1 so no one would assume professional translators have suddenly become incompetent.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If your attitude is like Trump (its up to others to decifer wtf i mean rather than me properly organizing my thoughts and convey them, and if they misinterpret, its completely their fault) then it would be easy to be a translater for trump.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Strangerland

”Say whaaaat?”

So you seem to agree that an enterpreter should get away with not speaking the language? I speak English and Japanese and have no problem explaining to another what anyone has said, including Donald Trump.

It’s a loaded statement meant to bash Trump from an angle.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

so called smarts (lol) pride and that’s it. 1000 legislative seats lost, but at least the libs have all that education and it shows. well you know those same type of people are the scientist entrepreneurs doctors engineers etc that designed the machines/medicines/companies that make America what it is today. Where the vast majority of Americas tax revenues are generated to fund the welfare states. The rest well they just lose their jobs to China because they can do the same thing much cheaper. The moral of the story is get yourself educated with skills that arent easily replaced and stop bitching because other did.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Jpn guy

You ask what’s others have “learnt in school” while claiming not to be rude and then posting a paragraph about trump, editing it, doing a self analysis, and then declaring you have an accurate assessment based on the one paragraph you chose then posted?

Funny stuff.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

"...Unfortunately, the problem is not just his tweets though is it?

                                It's every time he talks without a scriptwriter...."

Which seems to suggest (to me anyway), that this phenomenon is occurring regularly, so this time he gave just one example. Finding other examples to support the discussed notion about Trump's malleable word-smithing is in the easy basket. They abound.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@thepersoniamnowT

Funny stuff indeed. You can't deny that Trump sounds like a total ignoramus in the example I posted (which is unedited by the way, check the video on the accompanying link), so it seems that you make the claim that the world salad above is not a representative sample of the way he speaks without a teleprompter. Come on! You know this is exactly the sort of free-associative nonsense he comes out with all the time.

My assessment is not based on one paragraphy. As browny1 points out, I put it there just as any example. Look at the speech he gave to the boy scouts for example. The President of the US talking to impressionable young minds, and what does he chose to talk about? Among other things, he talks about who is hottest on the NY social scene! The way he speaks, the things he chooses to say - it's not normal, is it?

But let me see if I understand you correctly - are you seriously going to argue that I have cherry-picked a passage of meaningless verbiage from an otherwise eloquent man? Really? I don't think you'll find too much support for that position.

Look at his interview with the NY Times.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/us/politics/trump-new-york-times-interview-transcript.html

Read it all. Please. Tell me what you think. Does he come across as educated? Rational? Sincere? Concerned with running the country or concerned with himself?

Well, there are plenty of beauties in here. This is one I found in about 10 seconds.

I think you are barking up the wrong tree accusing me of lacking examples...

TRUMP: You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, 98. You know, you can make lots of cases for different views. I have a totally open mind.

My uncle was for 35 years a professor at M.I.T. He was a great engineer, scientist. He was a great guy. And he was … a long time ago, he had feelings — this was a long time ago — he had feelings on this subject. It’s a very complex subject. I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know. I know we have, they say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists. Where was that, in Geneva or wherever five years ago? Terrible. Where they got caught, you know, so you see that and you say, what’s this all about. I absolutely have an open mind. I will tell you this: Clean air is vitally important. Clean water, crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important.

And you know, you mentioned a lot of the courses. I have some great, great, very successful golf courses. I’ve received so many environmental awards for the way I’ve done, you know. I’ve done a tremendous amount of work where I’ve received tremendous numbers. Sometimes I’ll say I’m actually an environmentalist and people will smile in some cases and other people that know me understand that’s true. Open mind.

There are plenty of other examples. Face it, your guy can't hold a coherent thought and makes no sense at all.

While we are on the subject of the NY Times, you might also want to ponder why he called the NYTimes the "failing New York Times" when they criticized him, "A Great, Great American Jewel" the one time they were slightly nice to him, and back to the "failing New York Times" as soon as they criticized him again.

His entire communication strategy changes back and forth depending on whether a particular individual is praising or criticizing what he is doing at that particularly moment in time. Exactly like a toddler.

"Mummy gave me an ice cream. I love her." "Mummy told me I can't have another ice cream. I hate her".

Back and forth, back and forth. Trump's only concern is what people think of Trump. One day you'll look back and wonder how you got taken for a ride like this.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@thepersoniamnow

I have just noticed that you have said you are bilingual.

Do you think could you translate and post the two examples I put up in this thread into Japanese without making Trump sound all over the place?

@thepersoniamnow

"I have no problem explaining to another what anyone has said, including Donald Trump".

Please go ahead!

I think this site lets you post in Japanese. I would love to see what you can come up with.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I’ve seen a video with my own eyes, in which he claims, literally, to have invented the word “fake”.

After realising just how ridiculous that sounds, he semi-concedes, “Maybe some other folk were saying it. I didn’t hear them.”

Remarkable.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Surely people by now have realised what he is like and always has been . Did nobody ever watch the Apprentice ? Why are they so surprised ? Because they underestimated the American public and ignoring them and insulting Trump is not going to make him go away . The man's an idiot . But hey the tweets are hilarious ...just laugh at him ...someone is going to make a lot of money with the book

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Did nobody ever watch the Apprentice ? 

In Japan? Likely not. I've heard of it, vaguely, since he started campaigning, never actually seen it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hey - half my post above disappeared.

I was supporting japan-guy's post, as you could choose any number of 100's of Trump's bleats and while translatable, their coherence and meaning in direct translation is easily befuddling to readers/listeners of the translated material.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My god dude, you have a lot to say. I’m not gunna bother reading and watching all that stuff. I stand by my statement that while Trump is a looney to me and says ridiculous things that yes, are hard to translate, I did have an original point when posting.

The media does after everything Trump and that’s not really smart as it proves their bias and hypocrisy. Trump is not untranslatable.

Why are you trying to get me to show you how I would do it?

A rap song or script that uses a lot of slang would also be hard and challenging to translate, but if you can’t actually do it, up your skills or move on.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

If you read her comments in context, (see link above in Browny1's post) she is not complaining but just answering a question truthfully. Actually the whole article is good.

Trump would be a nightmare to render into Japanese with the correct amount of ambiguity. I guess with enough practice you could get to be a dab hand at it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This woman is bang on. There was a good bit on John Oliver about this just the other day, and before bass4funk or someone starts balking about the "liberal media" and the "whatabouts" as their deflection, Oliver quotes Trump VERBATIM, and then shows what happens when you take an iPhone and make a long speech starting with only one word and hitting whatever comes up next in predictive text; the iPhone made a more literate speech than Trump's was.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Buzzwords and slang! Shock and horror! Lol

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites