[JIF2018] Interpreting for the Presidents: From Clinton to Trump

Chikako Tsuruta

Chikako is a conference interpreter and a professor at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, who is also a CFA and a member of AIIC. After receiving an MBA from Columbia University, she spent the next 10 years in the world of finance before making a career change to become an interpreter. She is one of the most prominent and well-known interpreters in Japan. She speaks English, French, and Italian.

Interpreting for the Presidents: From Clinton to Trump

The interpreter’s job is first and foremost to convey the meaning of what is spoken, but the interpreter is also expected to accurately reflect, generally by word selection and sentence construction, the speaker’s intelligence, grace, and character, among other elements. Former President Obama was well-known for his precise logic and emotional rhetoric that captured the hearts of millions, and through his words he let his presence be felt.

What if, however, a person who does not necessarily possess the intelligence and character required of a leader is elected to lead a nation? What should the interpreter do? How should the interpreter cope with discriminatory expressions and comments that contain clear contradictions when they are uttered repeatedly? What can the interpreter do to be faithful to the speaker?

These questions are never more relevant now with the rise of President Trump. Chikako Tsuruta, who has given a Japanese voice to four U.S. presidents past and present, will attempt to answer these questions based on her experience as an interpreter as well as an educator, and give insights into how the interpreter should “interpret” the speaker in such complex circumstances.

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