‘Lost in Trumpslation’: The trouble of translating ‘Trump speak’ into French

As Trump’s inauguration speech goes out across the world on Friday, many people aren’t happy. Among them are French translators struggling to keep up with the new presidents “unique” vocabulary and style.

'Lost in Trumpslation': The trouble of translating 'Trump speak' into French
Photo: Evan Guest/ Flickr

“Trump’s vocabulary is limited, his syntax is broken; he repeats the same phrases over and over, forcing the translator to follow suit” French translator Bérengère Viennot told the LA review of books recently.

Trump famously confused journalists worldwide with his use of “bigly” in the first presidential debate, he’s now said it was actually “big league” – even so, how do you use that as an adjective in French, grand division or grand ligue?

As a translator, you need to not only translate the individual words, but the meaning behind that, to do that well you have to really get inside the head of the speaker.

With Donald Trump, that can be tricky and it’s nothing to do with his hair.

“It’s as if he had thematic clouds in his head that he would pick from with no need of a logical thread to link them” said Viennot.

This poses a particular problem for French translators, as the language is known to be very structured and logical.

Do you smooth out the style, or leave it as it is for French readers to work out for themselves?

And what happens when Donald Trump actually mispronounces or mistakes a word, such as “swatches of land”, where he’s assumed to have meant to say “swathes of land”?

Translation may even edit out these mistakes, potentially giving the French world a better impression of Trump’s language than is warranted.  

So whatever your opinion on the new president, spare a thought for French translators. 

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France aims for US digital tax deal by late August, despite Trump opposition

France wants to reach a deal with the US on taxing tech giants by a G7 meeting in late August, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Saturday.

France aims for US digital tax deal by late August, despite Trump opposition
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire. Photo: AFP

He was responding to US President Donald Trump, who on Friday vowed “substantial” retaliation against France for a law passed this month on taxing digital companies even if their headquarters are elsewhere.

The law would affect US-based global giants like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, among others.

Trump denounced French President Emmanuel Macron's “foolishness”, though they discussed the issue by phone on Friday, according to the White House.

Macron confirmed that he had a “long” conversation with Trump, stressing the pair would “continue to work together in view of the G7”.

“We will discuss international taxation, trade and collective security”, he said Saturday.

His office earlier said Macron had told Trump that the tax on the tech giants was not just in France's interest but was something they both had a stake in.

Neither side revealed if they had also discussed Trump's threat to tax French wines in retaliation.

Le Maire took the same line at a news conference Saturday: “We wish to work closely with our American friends on a universal tax on digital activities.

“We hope between now and the end of August — the G7 heads of state meeting in Biarritz — to reach an agreement.”

Leaders of the Group of Seven highly industrialised countries are to meet in the southwestern French city on August 24-26.

Le Maire emphasised that “there is no desire to specifically target American companies,” since the three-percent tax would be levied on revenues generated from services to French consumers by all of the world's largest tech firms, including Chinese and European ones. 

But Deputy White House spokesman Judd Deere noted earlier that France's digital services tax was already the subject of an investigation at the US Trade Representative's office, potentially opening the door to economic sanctions.

“The Trump administration has consistently stated that it will not sit idly by and tolerate discrimination against US-based firms,” Deere said in a statement. 

The French law aims to plug a taxation gap that has seen some internet heavyweights paying next to nothing in European countries where they make huge profits, because their legal base is in smaller EU states.

France has said it would withdraw the tax if an international agreement was reached, and Paris hopes to include all OECD countries by the end of 2020.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is a Paris-based forum that advises the world's advanced economies.

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