Media outlets around the world struggle with translating Trump's "shithole countries" comment - World Big News

Media outlets around the world struggle with translating Trump’s “shithole countries” comment

In America


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Updated Jan 13, 2018 3:38 PM EST

President Trump’s vulgar insult of Africa was a puzzle for many foreign media organizations, which didn’t have a ready translation of his epithet for their readers or listeners.

Their answers ranged from “dirty” to, well, dirtier.

While meeting with senators on immigration, Mr. Trump questioned why the United States would accept more people from “sh*thole countries” as CBS News has confirmed. 

“Why are we having all these people from sh*thole countries come here?” the president said in the Thursday afternoon Oval Office meeting with a handful of members of the House and Senate. “We should bring in more people from places like Norway,” he added. Norway’s prime minister visited the White House Wednesday. The Trump administration recently decided to soon end Temporary Protected Status for citizens of countries like Haiti and El Salvador, who came to the U.S. to escape natural disasters.

His comments Thursday revived racism accusations against Mr. Trump, roiled immigration talks and set off international outrage that left some foreign journalists wondering how to express the offending word. 

“We have dozens of language services at the BBC which today are all discussing the right way to translate into their own language the word ‘sh*thole’ for their millions of listeners,” Paul Danahar, the editor of the BBC’s North America bureau, tweeted Friday.

Japan’s Kyodo News wire service chose “kusottare,” which literally means “dripping with excrement.” The country’s no-nonsense national broadcaster NHK settled for “filthy,” while the Asahi Shimbun newspaper decided that a word meaning “outdoor toilets” conveyed the gist of Trump’s term.

Chinese media outlets are tightly controlled and have relatively little latitude when it comes to creative interpretations. The official Xinhua News Agency and other outlets translated the expletive as “fenkeng” — literally “cesspit.”

In Africa, the continent that was the object of Mr. Trump’s insult, Tanzania’s Mwananchi newspaper translated his comment as “mataifa chafu” — simply, “dirty countries.”

Taifa Leo, a sister Swahili publication to Kenya’s leading Daily Nation, chose “nchi za kinyesi,” a more or less direct translation that has a gentler word for excrement.

There is a more direct translation for Mr. Trump’s term in Swahili, editor Gilbert Mogire said. But, he explained, that would be “unprintable.”

The translation difficulty added an additional layer of confusion for international journalists, even as U.S. newsrooms had their own internal debates on how to convey the president’s remarks. Some outlets spelled out the insult, while others censored it by varying degrees. 

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