For Translators, A Tricky President

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Translating the speech of world leaders has always been a high-stakes task. Literal wars have started over translation issues.

David Bellos, director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, spoke with Takeaway producer Alexandra Botti about some of the challenges translators and interpreters face when putting politicians' words into another language. Bellos says President Donald Trump in particular can be tricky to translate, with his informal register and hard-to-follow sentence structure. In English it may be fine for politicians to speak plainly, but in other languages, using that same level of language can come across as rude or intentionally disrespectful. 

But according to Bellos, leaders who are perceived to be exceptionally eloquent can present their own problems for those tasked with getting across their meaning and style. He tells us why some of Churchill's most famous words, for example, could be just as challenging as Donald Trump's.