Can you identify the French accent of Trump's interpreter this morning?
April 24, 2018 8:02 AM   Subscribe

In this morning's welcoming ceremony for President Macron, the interpreter who rendered Trump's speech into French had an interesting accent, and I wonder if any of you can identify it. This video begins with Trump's remarks, alternating with the interpreter I'm asking about. Is his accent from a particular region?

In contrast, later in the video you'll hear Macron's remarks spoken with what I believe is a standard, educated Parisian French accent. I found his French much easier to understand than that of Trump's interpreter.

So, any comments on the French accent of Trump's interpreter?
posted by JimN2TAW to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm a French native speaker, and I'm not actually sure that Trump's interpreter is. It sounds extremely strange to my ears.
posted by snakeling at 8:13 AM on April 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


He sounds like an American whose mother tongue is English.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:29 AM on April 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


French Canadian, perhaps?
posted by Carol Anne at 9:13 AM on April 24, 2018


I didn't find his accent difficult to understand, but that's probably because I've listened to a lot of native English speakers speaking French. I'm inclined to say that cichlid ceilidh's guess is correct.
posted by invokeuse at 9:23 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


So, any comments on the French accent of Trump's interpreter?

He is not a native speaker. My guess is American. His French is good and intelligible though.
posted by Kwadeng at 9:33 AM on April 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


I work in Quebec and the accent sounded unplaceable to me. Almost Quebecois but not. I checked with a francophone colleague who says that it's a "universal" TV accent, intentionally overpronounced for comprehension's sake. Could be a non-native speaker, but could also be a speaker intentionally trained to speak that way for audiences.
posted by urbanlenny at 9:34 AM on April 24, 2018


Definitely not French-Canadian. I'd guess he started learning French in high school and has done immersion programs in France. Sounds similar to people with that background I had in college French literature classes (a bit staccato). I had no difficulty understanding him.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 9:41 AM on April 24, 2018 [3 favorites]


Historically at least White House interpretation services are provided by career officers in the State Department, so it wouldn't be surprising for him to be an American. Trump is at least using those services for Russian interpretation, so presumably this guy too came from the State Department.

https://www.state.gov/m/a/ols/c57124.htm
https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/07/trump-interpreters/532968/
posted by crazy with stars at 9:52 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


It sounds like a combo of the above mentioned “American who learned french” and tv announcer voice.

This may not hold true for audio translation but often written translators only do work from mother tongue to target language. That would add an additional level of confirmation to the American speaking French level.
posted by raccoon409 at 10:32 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


This may not hold true for audio translation but often written translators only do work from mother tongue to target language.

Actually, everything I have ever seen points to the reverse: Translators usually translate from the target language into their first language.

Interpreters often have to do both directions, although some interpreters only interprete into their own language, but not back into the target language for their less developed languages.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 1:30 AM on April 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


@loonylovegood I believe you’re right! A brain fart on my behalf!
posted by raccoon409 at 6:54 AM on April 25, 2018


As a high school student, I interned at the Office of Language Services at State, and nowadays I regularly work with medical interpreters. I would be really surprised if State chose a non-native speaker for such a high profile visit, especially for a language as common as French. To me, it sounds like "interpreter voice," with short staccato phrasing for comprehension. The Americanization of some phonemes could be just someone who has lived in the States for decades.
posted by basalganglia at 7:44 AM on April 25, 2018


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