Interpreting Donald Trump

A couple of months ago, there was a flurry of online media pieces about the difficulties people had rendering Donald Trump’s speeches into AN Other Languages Not English.

During the week, the Troublesome Terps podcast (and if you are interested in languages for international communication, that really is worth your while) had a chat with Franz Kubaczyk who had the privilege, as it were, of doing it for a few German TV stations. You can find the podcast episode here, they are also available on a range of podcast management outfits like iTunes as far as I know. Also, follow them on twitter.

I found a couple of things interesting about this episode that I would not normally think about and which are not especially linked to Donald Trump per se. In the grand scheme of things, while Donald Trump brings certain challenges (I really do not know how one deals with “and I’m gonna Make America Great Again” without wanting to scream after about the second one), what is most interesting to me about this piece is the mechanics of interpreting for television.

There’s an interesting difference between renditions in English on English language TV of foreign language interviews/speeches (specifically British in my experience) in that very often, the renditions in English are not given by native English speakers. That they carry a foreign accent of some description. This does not seem to be the case with Donald Trump into German for example and given that the online pieces on the matter tended not to feature English native speakers working into a foreign or B language, this could imply (without any data to support or dismiss this theory) that maybe English media is alone in doing this. Or possibly it is source language specific.

The other point is the episode also contains a discussion on the need for acting skills, and the fact that for the inauguration at least the interpreting was not live but the interpreters had opportunities to re-record parts. Leaving aside the fact that the inauguration in general is not the most common type of piece which needs to be interpreted for newsmedia, what struck me there was there seemed to be a very thin line between interpreting and dubbing in this respect.

I have to confess that interpreting for television was never something which really struck me as a career option but I tend to find the mechanics of cross cultural communications quite interesting and how you approach the problem of a politician like Donald Trump is something that we don’t perhaps think about very often.