Is Trump the New Translator in Chief?

The world is still abuzz with the state-sponsored assassination of Qasem Sulemani. This triggered talks of a US-Iran war. Then came the unintentional  downing of the Ukrainian International Airlines jet by Iran which claimed the lives of 176 souls.  This caused mass riots by thousands of irate Iranians who are demanding the ouster of Iran’s ruling class.

In a move reminiscent of the airborne leaflet propaganda used in World War II, US President Trump issued a pair of tweets to the citizens of Iran in both English and Farsi. These tweets were intended to encourage the Iranian people to rebel against their leadership and further destabilize the regime which has always been at odds with the US.

Trump’s use of tweets to send messages to foreign countries

NOT Kim Jong Un

This would not be the first time that President Trump has targeted tweets at foreign leaders or at the people in foreign countries. Trump is known to tweet about anything and everything, and for example has targeted tweets at both the people of North Korean and its leader Kim Jong Un (Rocket Man).

Another example at his attempt at foreign intervention through tweets can be seen in this tweet from last November:

But just like in the Farsi tweets, Trump has also tweeted in Spanish like in the example below.


No more
No more false asylum
No more catch and release
No more illegal entry into the United States

Who translates for the President?

When Trump wants to tweet in a foreign language, who translates it for him? It is not done using machine translation-the quality is too good. I assume that someone on the President’s staff enlists the services of a good translator for that purpose. Certainly there is no shortage of good translators in the State Department and the CIA.

Do the intended recipients of the tweets even see them?

In the case of the Mexican tweets, we can assume that the Spanish tweets reach their mark as Twitter use is unrestricted in Mexico. But in Iran? The Iranian regime has recently censored all Internet use in the country so it is questionable as how many Iranians actually read the Farsi tweets, It would also explain why Trump has never tweeted in Chinese nor target Chinese people with his tweets, as Twitter is blocked in China.

Should Trump translate his tweets into other languages?

Can we expect Trump to send more officially-translated tweets? It makes sense, since some of Trump’s tweets are very difficult to translate using machine translation. If a tweet is targeted to a large population in a foreign country, it is dangerous to rely on people using machine translation to translate a tweet. Twitter uses Google Translate to allow translation of tweets from within Twitter. Trump’s tweets are often written in very informal, idiomatic English which do not lend itself well to machine translation. For a tweet to hit its mark, it is better for the writer of the tweet (in this case Trump) to control the translation at the source and tweet directly in the target language.

That’s why I say that we can expect to see more translated tweets by President Trump.

5 Ways Twitter Can Boost Your Foreign Language Skills

The fastest and most efficient way of learning a foreign language has always been total immersion, using the language on a daily basis, almost to the exclusion of your mother tongue. For people who are not living in a country where their target language is spoken, this is easier said than done.

Luckily for the modern language learner, the internet — and especially social media — offers unrivaled scope for interacting with native speakers on a daily basis, offering an excellent way of increasing your immersion and instinctive language abilities. Among the various social media platforms, Twitter is especially helpful for students of foreign languages, for these reasons:

Newspaper Headlines

Most newspapers, including those in your target language, run Twitter accounts tweeting their most important headlines. The very nature of tweets means that the sentences will be short rather than overwhelming, and as a bonus will often include some wordplay or other illuminating examples of usage. If the headline is easy to read and interests you, you can continue to the main story; if not, you’ve only lost a few seconds while still practicing your skills.

Follow Social Media Savvy Linguists

There are some Twitter users who are leaders in language. One such user is Erik Hansson.  These Twitter users can provide you with a wealth of useful information on language, culture, localization and more.

Whichever language you’re studying, there will likely be at least one Twitter account posting a word or phrase of the day, with a translation and examples of use. Depending on the popularity of the language, you can probably find many such accounts, and following a few can be a quick but manageable way to build up new vocabulary on a wide range of topics.

Peer Learning

Checking the follower lists for the daily vocabulary accounts is an efficient way of finding other people studying the same language as you. This can give you an opportunity to interact, but you can also learn a lot simply by following people who talk about their struggles and successes with their studies.

Rotation Curation Accounts

Rotation curation refers to Twitter accounts in which different people take turns tweeting around a certain topic for a week or so. Many of them are related to a particular country, and although they are often written in English, they can give a valuable insight into the culture and lifestyle of the region whose language you’re learning. And if you find the tweets of a curator particularly interesting and helpful, you can usually continue following them in their native language account too. Try searching Twitter for accounts such as “I am (country of choice)” to see if there’s an account relating to your language.

Celebrity and Gossip Accounts

Social media is a veritable playground for celebrity gossip and other ephemera. While this might not be your first choice of reading in your mother tongue, following suitably “lightweight” accounts in your chosen language can give you a relatively simple way of tuning into modern idioms, slang, and other usages which would be difficult to tap into by other means. Following the conversations these accounts provoke can also give you strong insights into the casual language that you’d be likely to come across in everyday situations.

Few people find that becoming proficient in a new language is easy, but it needn’t just involve hours of dusty book learning and reams of baffling grammar. If you’re already one of the millions who use Twitter regularly, then simply following a few of these kinds of accounts can be a powerful and enjoyable stimulus toward everyday fluency.

About the Author

Peter Swift has been working in writing, content development, and online business for over 15 years, of which a decade was spent as content and marketing manager for a credit brokerage. His writing experience covers diverse topics including finance, marketing, online business, and health.

Peter’s specialty is to research new topics in depth, and deliver succinct and engaging texts with an emphasis on value for the reader. He will happily create content in US, British, and Australian English. He also offers German-to-English translation services at competitive rates.

Peter is originally from England but now lives and works in a small mountain village in Austria, Central Europe.