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Episode
82

The English of Donald Trump

Aug 21, 2020
Language Learning
-
16
minutes
Donald Trump
English speaking
Language learning
US politics
History of language

The President of The United States of America uses a kind of English you won't find in a textbook.

Here we take a look at how he speaks, why he speaks like he speaks, and what Donald Trump can teach you about speaking English effectively.

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Donald Trump:[00:00:00] They say one of their achievements for the year is bringing peace to Syria. And the whole world is talking about it. The level of stupidity is incredible. I'm telling you, I used to use the word incompetent now just call them stupid. I went to an Ivy league school. I'm very highly educated. I know words I have the best words but there's no better word than stupid, right? 

[00:00:27] Alastair Budge:[00:00:30] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English, the show where you can listen to fascinating stories and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:48] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about the English of Donald Trump.

[00:00:55] Now Donald Trump is obviously a pretty divisive character, but we are going to try to avoid talking too much about his politics or the man himself. 

[00:01:07] We are going to stick to talking about his language, how he talks, why he talks like he talks, and what, if anything, you can learn from it.  

[00:01:20] Before we get right into that though, let me remind you that you can get all of the bonus episodes plus subtitles, transcripts, and key vocabulary over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:35] This is also where you can check out becoming a member of Leonardo English and join a community of curious minds from all over the world, doing meetups, exchanging ideas, and generally improving their English in a more interesting way.

[00:01:51] So if that is of interest and I certainly hope it is then the place to go to is Leonardoenglish.com.  

[00:02:00] Okay then, Donald Trump and his English. 

[00:02:05] I'm sure what that Donald Trump needs no introduction. 

[00:02:08] He was mildly famous before he became president of the United States. 

[00:02:14] And since then, well, he seems to dominate the news cycle and it's hard to find a day where he isn't on the front page of a newspaper.

[00:02:24] Compared to most politicians, he is of course, very different and not just in character, style or substance

[00:02:33] He also uses a very different kind of language.  

[00:02:38] To start this episode, we are going to talk about the kind of language that Trump uses and you can see if you can recognise some of the traits, some of the characteristics.

[00:02:51] We had a short clip of Trump speaking at the start of the podcast, but I'm going to play another clip now from a recent interview he did. 

[00:03:01] So here we go.

[00:03:04] Donald Trump:[00:03:04] Well, I certainly think so. And I certainly hope so. And, the relationships we have are incredible, the spirit of this country, and especially considering what happened. I mean, we had out of nowhere, a plague come in from China, it just came in and it came to all over the world.

[00:03:21] When all over the world, you look at it 186 countries, and they were devastated and we were certainly hit very hard, some were hit harder than us relatively, but we were hit very, very hard. And now we're making our comeback. And then on top of it, we had the riots, which were unnecessary to the extent they were.

[00:03:39] If the governors and mayors would have taken a stronger action, I think the riots would have been, you could call them protesters. You could call them riots so different nights different things. In Minneapolis they went numerous nights. And then I said, you got to get the guard in there we got the guard in there and it all stopped. 

[00:03:56] Alastair Budge:[00:03:56] Okay then I'm sure you recognise that voice. 

[00:03:59] Now let's talk about some of the aspects of language that make Donald Trump different.  

[00:04:07] Firstly, the actual vocabulary he uses is very different to the sort of vocabulary that English speaking politicians traditionally use. 

[00:04:17] There was a study carried out by Carnegie Mellon University, which reported that Trump's level of grammar and vocabulary was equivalent to that of a sixth grade student, someone who is 12 or 13 years old.

[00:04:33] If you find the words that he uses easier to understand than other politicians that's because they are indeed easier words. 

[00:04:43] He uses simple vocabulary: big, beautiful, great, strong, bad, nasty, horrible, adjectives that you probably know, and that any learner would pick up relatively early on in their language learning journey.

[00:04:59] So from that point of view, he is very easy to understand. 

[00:05:04] However, the second trait of Donald Trump is actually something that makes him a lot harder to understand for a lot of people and has been something that has made the life of professional translators a lot harder.

[00:05:20] And this is that he is not a coherent speaker. 

[00:05:24] He jumps around a lot from idea to idea and gets distracted as he is speaking. 

[00:05:32] He will be talking about one thing, then his mind will wander and he'll move on to a different subject, often, not even finishing the sentence that he had just started. 

[00:05:44] Just listen to this example from a recent interview.

[00:05:48] Donald Trump:[00:05:48] I look at school, I watch, I read, look at the stuff. Now they want to change. If 1492 Columbus discovered America, you know, we grew up, you grew up, we all did.

[00:05:58] That's what we learned. Now. They want to make it the 1619 project. Where did that come from? What does it represent? I don't even know slavery. That's what they're saying, but they don't even know. They just want to make a change  

[00:06:10] Alastair Budge:[00:06:10] If you find this hard to follow, I don't blame you. 

[00:06:14] It has been extremely difficult for professional translators to deal with him, especially those who are translating into languages that use different sentence structures and word orders, such as German, Arabic, or Japanese. 

[00:06:31] In English, a sentence typically starts with a subject, then there's a verb and an object, but this isn't the case for every language, as you may well know. 

[00:06:41] The verb might come first or the object might come first. 

[00:06:46] With Donald Trump, he often starts with the subject and the verb, but then might get distracted and go off on a completely unrelated subject, on a complete tangent, before coming back to finish what he was originally talking about.

[00:07:02] Or sometimes he doesn't complete the sentence at all.  

[00:07:07] Understandably, this makes it incredibly difficult for anyone trying to professionally translate it, and it makes it difficult to follow for a non-native speaker.  

[00:07:19] Thirdly, and this is something that probably doesn't come as a surprise to you, but he uses a lot of vulgar language. 

]

[00:07:28] Swear words, he gives derogatory nicknames to other people and generally speaks like a child might do in a playground. 

[00:07:38] This might be good for expanding your vocabulary of swear words, but it's not very useful for professional or polite conversations.  

[00:07:48] And in terms of the style of his speech, there are a few additional things that are worth mentioning. 

[00:07:56] These aren't all remarks about the actual language he uses, but more around the style.

[00:08:03] Some of these make him easier to be understood, some make it harder. 

[00:08:08] So he uses a technique that linguists call paralipsis. This is when you mention another subject, but pretend not to mention it, normally so you can deny that you actually did mention it. 

[00:08:24] For example, he says things like, some people say that, or I've heard that, or I don't want to mention it but... 

[00:08:34] It's a way of raising the subject, of letting people know what you want to talk about and planting an idea in their heads while maintaining the ability to deny that you believe it. 

[00:08:49] It's a technique that he uses all the time and unfortunately it's pretty effective.  

[00:08:57] Secondly, he repeats everything multiple times.

[00:09:02] If he wants to make a point, he doesn't say it again using different words. 

[00:09:06] He will literally just repeat the same thing, using the same words multiple times.

[00:09:12] Again, this poses some problems for translators because repeating yourself multiple times makes you sound a bit stupid in some languages. 

[00:09:23] So do you translate him literally and make him sound a bit stupid or do you find another way of translating his language to make him sound more like a politician, but you are actually changing his style of speech? 

[00:09:38] It's been something that professional translators have been grappling with for years now. 

[00:09:45] And finally, he is a master of ambiguity, of leaving a subject open, of not saying something directly, but allowing you - the listener - to believe whatever you want.

[00:10:00] From saying things like, you all know what I'm talking about or we'll have to wait and see without ever clarifying what it is he is referring to. 

[00:10:09] He first creates this sense of suspense and he also makes you the listener feel like you can believe whatever you want to believe. 

[00:10:20] Again, it is incredibly effective.

[00:10:24] Now love him or loathe him, it's impossible to deny that the words of Donald Trump have managed to persuade the most powerful country in the world to elect him as their leader. 

[00:10:38] Knowing what we know about the style of his language, let's take a minute to think about what linguistically might have helped him appeal to voters.

[00:10:49] Our first stylistic point was that he has the vocabulary and grammar of a sixth grader, of a 12 year old.

[00:10:58] Now, while you might say that this is something that would repel voters, that would mean he would be hard to take seriously as a politician, political analysts and commentators believe this is a major part of his appeal.

[00:11:15] He talks like someone you might meet at a bar or watching a sports game, not someone who wears a suit and a tie and sits behind a desk. 

[00:11:25] It's this really weird juxtaposition where, on the one hand he is there talking about how rich he is and how he has a gold bathroom, but he is also using the language of the man next door, making grammatical errors, using childish vocabulary and talking in a very simple manner. 

[00:11:48] It's completely the opposite of his predecessor and nemesis, Barack Obama, who spoke using rich, profound language, often stopping to pause for thought and never seeming to lose his train of thought.  

[00:12:06] But for the people who hated Obama, Donald Trump was the polar opposite they were looking for, in linguistic terms as well.  

[00:12:16] He also was a practiced showman, a reality TV host, and a chief manipulator of the media. 

[00:12:24] He is a master of grabbing people's attention and knows how to use language to get what he wants, from using paralipsis to get people to think about the subject without actually saying he believes it through to using suspense and ambiguity, to get people to tune in again to what he says.

[00:12:46] He has decades of experience at capturing the attention of the American public, and boy, does he exploit it.  

[00:12:56] So the question you might be asking yourself is, what can you learn from the English of Donald Trump? 

[00:13:03] Is there something about the way he speaks, the vocabulary he uses, or his style that you can use to make yourself a better English speaker?

[00:13:14] Well, you could probably look at the English of Donald Trump and say that it is a very good argument for not worrying too much about expanding your vocabulary or grammar. 

[00:13:26] If a man can get elected to the highest political office in America with the vocabulary of a 12 year old, then you probably shouldn't worry about not having 10 different ways of saying big or beautiful.

[00:13:41] However, if you are a curious language learner, and someone who thinks of language, not just as a tool to get what you want, but an art form, a flower which you enjoy constantly cultivating, then I think there's probably a limited amount of practical things that you can take from Donald Trump, and a lot of things that you should avoid.  

[00:14:06] His racist and sexist language is of course something to avoid, but developing a sophisticated vocabulary and a richer way to say different things is something that we, as curious language learners should all be working towards. 

[00:14:23] The good news is that, linguistically at least, you're probably already not too far behind Donald Trump.

[00:14:31] Okay then that is it for today's episode on the English of Donald Trump. 

[00:14:38] Often in these episodes, I tell you where you can go to find more information on the subject, but in this case, there are literally hundreds of thousands of clips of him speaking all over the internet. 

[00:14:51] If you haven't already listened to him speaking in English, do give it a try and let me know what you think.

[00:14:57] Do you find him easy to understand? 

[00:14:59] If not what's difficult? 

[00:15:02] I would love to know how you get on, you can email hi, Hi@leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:15:09] And as one final reminder, if you are looking to improve your English in a more interesting way, to join a community of curious minds from all over the world and to unlock the transcripts, subtitles and key vocabulary, then the place to go to is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:15:27] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:15:33] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]


Continue learning

Get immediate access to a more interesting way of improving your English
Become a member
Already a member? Login

Donald Trump:[00:00:00] They say one of their achievements for the year is bringing peace to Syria. And the whole world is talking about it. The level of stupidity is incredible. I'm telling you, I used to use the word incompetent now just call them stupid. I went to an Ivy league school. I'm very highly educated. I know words I have the best words but there's no better word than stupid, right? 

[00:00:27] Alastair Budge:[00:00:30] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English, the show where you can listen to fascinating stories and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:48] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about the English of Donald Trump.

[00:00:55] Now Donald Trump is obviously a pretty divisive character, but we are going to try to avoid talking too much about his politics or the man himself. 

[00:01:07] We are going to stick to talking about his language, how he talks, why he talks like he talks, and what, if anything, you can learn from it.  

[00:01:20] Before we get right into that though, let me remind you that you can get all of the bonus episodes plus subtitles, transcripts, and key vocabulary over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:35] This is also where you can check out becoming a member of Leonardo English and join a community of curious minds from all over the world, doing meetups, exchanging ideas, and generally improving their English in a more interesting way.

[00:01:51] So if that is of interest and I certainly hope it is then the place to go to is Leonardoenglish.com.  

[00:02:00] Okay then, Donald Trump and his English. 

[00:02:05] I'm sure what that Donald Trump needs no introduction. 

[00:02:08] He was mildly famous before he became president of the United States. 

[00:02:14] And since then, well, he seems to dominate the news cycle and it's hard to find a day where he isn't on the front page of a newspaper.

[00:02:24] Compared to most politicians, he is of course, very different and not just in character, style or substance

[00:02:33] He also uses a very different kind of language.  

[00:02:38] To start this episode, we are going to talk about the kind of language that Trump uses and you can see if you can recognise some of the traits, some of the characteristics.

[00:02:51] We had a short clip of Trump speaking at the start of the podcast, but I'm going to play another clip now from a recent interview he did. 

[00:03:01] So here we go.

[00:03:04] Donald Trump:[00:03:04] Well, I certainly think so. And I certainly hope so. And, the relationships we have are incredible, the spirit of this country, and especially considering what happened. I mean, we had out of nowhere, a plague come in from China, it just came in and it came to all over the world.

[00:03:21] When all over the world, you look at it 186 countries, and they were devastated and we were certainly hit very hard, some were hit harder than us relatively, but we were hit very, very hard. And now we're making our comeback. And then on top of it, we had the riots, which were unnecessary to the extent they were.

[00:03:39] If the governors and mayors would have taken a stronger action, I think the riots would have been, you could call them protesters. You could call them riots so different nights different things. In Minneapolis they went numerous nights. And then I said, you got to get the guard in there we got the guard in there and it all stopped. 

[00:03:56] Alastair Budge:[00:03:56] Okay then I'm sure you recognise that voice. 

[00:03:59] Now let's talk about some of the aspects of language that make Donald Trump different.  

[00:04:07] Firstly, the actual vocabulary he uses is very different to the sort of vocabulary that English speaking politicians traditionally use. 

[00:04:17] There was a study carried out by Carnegie Mellon University, which reported that Trump's level of grammar and vocabulary was equivalent to that of a sixth grade student, someone who is 12 or 13 years old.

[00:04:33] If you find the words that he uses easier to understand than other politicians that's because they are indeed easier words. 

[00:04:43] He uses simple vocabulary: big, beautiful, great, strong, bad, nasty, horrible, adjectives that you probably know, and that any learner would pick up relatively early on in their language learning journey.

[00:04:59] So from that point of view, he is very easy to understand. 

[00:05:04] However, the second trait of Donald Trump is actually something that makes him a lot harder to understand for a lot of people and has been something that has made the life of professional translators a lot harder.

[00:05:20] And this is that he is not a coherent speaker. 

[00:05:24] He jumps around a lot from idea to idea and gets distracted as he is speaking. 

[00:05:32] He will be talking about one thing, then his mind will wander and he'll move on to a different subject, often, not even finishing the sentence that he had just started. 

[00:05:44] Just listen to this example from a recent interview.

[00:05:48] Donald Trump:[00:05:48] I look at school, I watch, I read, look at the stuff. Now they want to change. If 1492 Columbus discovered America, you know, we grew up, you grew up, we all did.

[00:05:58] That's what we learned. Now. They want to make it the 1619 project. Where did that come from? What does it represent? I don't even know slavery. That's what they're saying, but they don't even know. They just want to make a change  

[00:06:10] Alastair Budge:[00:06:10] If you find this hard to follow, I don't blame you. 

[00:06:14] It has been extremely difficult for professional translators to deal with him, especially those who are translating into languages that use different sentence structures and word orders, such as German, Arabic, or Japanese. 

[00:06:31] In English, a sentence typically starts with a subject, then there's a verb and an object, but this isn't the case for every language, as you may well know. 

[00:06:41] The verb might come first or the object might come first. 

[00:06:46] With Donald Trump, he often starts with the subject and the verb, but then might get distracted and go off on a completely unrelated subject, on a complete tangent, before coming back to finish what he was originally talking about.

[00:07:02] Or sometimes he doesn't complete the sentence at all.  

[00:07:07] Understandably, this makes it incredibly difficult for anyone trying to professionally translate it, and it makes it difficult to follow for a non-native speaker.  

[00:07:19] Thirdly, and this is something that probably doesn't come as a surprise to you, but he uses a lot of vulgar language. 

]

[00:07:28] Swear words, he gives derogatory nicknames to other people and generally speaks like a child might do in a playground. 

[00:07:38] This might be good for expanding your vocabulary of swear words, but it's not very useful for professional or polite conversations.  

[00:07:48] And in terms of the style of his speech, there are a few additional things that are worth mentioning. 

[00:07:56] These aren't all remarks about the actual language he uses, but more around the style.

[00:08:03] Some of these make him easier to be understood, some make it harder. 

[00:08:08] So he uses a technique that linguists call paralipsis. This is when you mention another subject, but pretend not to mention it, normally so you can deny that you actually did mention it. 

[00:08:24] For example, he says things like, some people say that, or I've heard that, or I don't want to mention it but... 

[00:08:34] It's a way of raising the subject, of letting people know what you want to talk about and planting an idea in their heads while maintaining the ability to deny that you believe it. 

[00:08:49] It's a technique that he uses all the time and unfortunately it's pretty effective.  

[00:08:57] Secondly, he repeats everything multiple times.

[00:09:02] If he wants to make a point, he doesn't say it again using different words. 

[00:09:06] He will literally just repeat the same thing, using the same words multiple times.

[00:09:12] Again, this poses some problems for translators because repeating yourself multiple times makes you sound a bit stupid in some languages. 

[00:09:23] So do you translate him literally and make him sound a bit stupid or do you find another way of translating his language to make him sound more like a politician, but you are actually changing his style of speech? 

[00:09:38] It's been something that professional translators have been grappling with for years now. 

[00:09:45] And finally, he is a master of ambiguity, of leaving a subject open, of not saying something directly, but allowing you - the listener - to believe whatever you want.

[00:10:00] From saying things like, you all know what I'm talking about or we'll have to wait and see without ever clarifying what it is he is referring to. 

[00:10:09] He first creates this sense of suspense and he also makes you the listener feel like you can believe whatever you want to believe. 

[00:10:20] Again, it is incredibly effective.

[00:10:24] Now love him or loathe him, it's impossible to deny that the words of Donald Trump have managed to persuade the most powerful country in the world to elect him as their leader. 

[00:10:38] Knowing what we know about the style of his language, let's take a minute to think about what linguistically might have helped him appeal to voters.

[00:10:49] Our first stylistic point was that he has the vocabulary and grammar of a sixth grader, of a 12 year old.

[00:10:58] Now, while you might say that this is something that would repel voters, that would mean he would be hard to take seriously as a politician, political analysts and commentators believe this is a major part of his appeal.

[00:11:15] He talks like someone you might meet at a bar or watching a sports game, not someone who wears a suit and a tie and sits behind a desk. 

[00:11:25] It's this really weird juxtaposition where, on the one hand he is there talking about how rich he is and how he has a gold bathroom, but he is also using the language of the man next door, making grammatical errors, using childish vocabulary and talking in a very simple manner. 

[00:11:48] It's completely the opposite of his predecessor and nemesis, Barack Obama, who spoke using rich, profound language, often stopping to pause for thought and never seeming to lose his train of thought.  

[00:12:06] But for the people who hated Obama, Donald Trump was the polar opposite they were looking for, in linguistic terms as well.  

[00:12:16] He also was a practiced showman, a reality TV host, and a chief manipulator of the media. 

[00:12:24] He is a master of grabbing people's attention and knows how to use language to get what he wants, from using paralipsis to get people to think about the subject without actually saying he believes it through to using suspense and ambiguity, to get people to tune in again to what he says.

[00:12:46] He has decades of experience at capturing the attention of the American public, and boy, does he exploit it.  

[00:12:56] So the question you might be asking yourself is, what can you learn from the English of Donald Trump? 

[00:13:03] Is there something about the way he speaks, the vocabulary he uses, or his style that you can use to make yourself a better English speaker?

[00:13:14] Well, you could probably look at the English of Donald Trump and say that it is a very good argument for not worrying too much about expanding your vocabulary or grammar. 

[00:13:26] If a man can get elected to the highest political office in America with the vocabulary of a 12 year old, then you probably shouldn't worry about not having 10 different ways of saying big or beautiful.

[00:13:41] However, if you are a curious language learner, and someone who thinks of language, not just as a tool to get what you want, but an art form, a flower which you enjoy constantly cultivating, then I think there's probably a limited amount of practical things that you can take from Donald Trump, and a lot of things that you should avoid.  

[00:14:06] His racist and sexist language is of course something to avoid, but developing a sophisticated vocabulary and a richer way to say different things is something that we, as curious language learners should all be working towards. 

[00:14:23] The good news is that, linguistically at least, you're probably already not too far behind Donald Trump.

[00:14:31] Okay then that is it for today's episode on the English of Donald Trump. 

[00:14:38] Often in these episodes, I tell you where you can go to find more information on the subject, but in this case, there are literally hundreds of thousands of clips of him speaking all over the internet. 

[00:14:51] If you haven't already listened to him speaking in English, do give it a try and let me know what you think.

[00:14:57] Do you find him easy to understand? 

[00:14:59] If not what's difficult? 

[00:15:02] I would love to know how you get on, you can email hi, Hi@leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:15:09] And as one final reminder, if you are looking to improve your English in a more interesting way, to join a community of curious minds from all over the world and to unlock the transcripts, subtitles and key vocabulary, then the place to go to is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:15:27] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:15:33] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]


Donald Trump:[00:00:00] They say one of their achievements for the year is bringing peace to Syria. And the whole world is talking about it. The level of stupidity is incredible. I'm telling you, I used to use the word incompetent now just call them stupid. I went to an Ivy league school. I'm very highly educated. I know words I have the best words but there's no better word than stupid, right? 

[00:00:27] Alastair Budge:[00:00:30] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English, the show where you can listen to fascinating stories and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:48] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about the English of Donald Trump.

[00:00:55] Now Donald Trump is obviously a pretty divisive character, but we are going to try to avoid talking too much about his politics or the man himself. 

[00:01:07] We are going to stick to talking about his language, how he talks, why he talks like he talks, and what, if anything, you can learn from it.  

[00:01:20] Before we get right into that though, let me remind you that you can get all of the bonus episodes plus subtitles, transcripts, and key vocabulary over on the website, which is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:01:35] This is also where you can check out becoming a member of Leonardo English and join a community of curious minds from all over the world, doing meetups, exchanging ideas, and generally improving their English in a more interesting way.

[00:01:51] So if that is of interest and I certainly hope it is then the place to go to is Leonardoenglish.com.  

[00:02:00] Okay then, Donald Trump and his English. 

[00:02:05] I'm sure what that Donald Trump needs no introduction. 

[00:02:08] He was mildly famous before he became president of the United States. 

[00:02:14] And since then, well, he seems to dominate the news cycle and it's hard to find a day where he isn't on the front page of a newspaper.

[00:02:24] Compared to most politicians, he is of course, very different and not just in character, style or substance

[00:02:33] He also uses a very different kind of language.  

[00:02:38] To start this episode, we are going to talk about the kind of language that Trump uses and you can see if you can recognise some of the traits, some of the characteristics.

[00:02:51] We had a short clip of Trump speaking at the start of the podcast, but I'm going to play another clip now from a recent interview he did. 

[00:03:01] So here we go.

[00:03:04] Donald Trump:[00:03:04] Well, I certainly think so. And I certainly hope so. And, the relationships we have are incredible, the spirit of this country, and especially considering what happened. I mean, we had out of nowhere, a plague come in from China, it just came in and it came to all over the world.

[00:03:21] When all over the world, you look at it 186 countries, and they were devastated and we were certainly hit very hard, some were hit harder than us relatively, but we were hit very, very hard. And now we're making our comeback. And then on top of it, we had the riots, which were unnecessary to the extent they were.

[00:03:39] If the governors and mayors would have taken a stronger action, I think the riots would have been, you could call them protesters. You could call them riots so different nights different things. In Minneapolis they went numerous nights. And then I said, you got to get the guard in there we got the guard in there and it all stopped. 

[00:03:56] Alastair Budge:[00:03:56] Okay then I'm sure you recognise that voice. 

[00:03:59] Now let's talk about some of the aspects of language that make Donald Trump different.  

[00:04:07] Firstly, the actual vocabulary he uses is very different to the sort of vocabulary that English speaking politicians traditionally use. 

[00:04:17] There was a study carried out by Carnegie Mellon University, which reported that Trump's level of grammar and vocabulary was equivalent to that of a sixth grade student, someone who is 12 or 13 years old.

[00:04:33] If you find the words that he uses easier to understand than other politicians that's because they are indeed easier words. 

[00:04:43] He uses simple vocabulary: big, beautiful, great, strong, bad, nasty, horrible, adjectives that you probably know, and that any learner would pick up relatively early on in their language learning journey.

[00:04:59] So from that point of view, he is very easy to understand. 

[00:05:04] However, the second trait of Donald Trump is actually something that makes him a lot harder to understand for a lot of people and has been something that has made the life of professional translators a lot harder.

[00:05:20] And this is that he is not a coherent speaker. 

[00:05:24] He jumps around a lot from idea to idea and gets distracted as he is speaking. 

[00:05:32] He will be talking about one thing, then his mind will wander and he'll move on to a different subject, often, not even finishing the sentence that he had just started. 

[00:05:44] Just listen to this example from a recent interview.

[00:05:48] Donald Trump:[00:05:48] I look at school, I watch, I read, look at the stuff. Now they want to change. If 1492 Columbus discovered America, you know, we grew up, you grew up, we all did.

[00:05:58] That's what we learned. Now. They want to make it the 1619 project. Where did that come from? What does it represent? I don't even know slavery. That's what they're saying, but they don't even know. They just want to make a change  

[00:06:10] Alastair Budge:[00:06:10] If you find this hard to follow, I don't blame you. 

[00:06:14] It has been extremely difficult for professional translators to deal with him, especially those who are translating into languages that use different sentence structures and word orders, such as German, Arabic, or Japanese. 

[00:06:31] In English, a sentence typically starts with a subject, then there's a verb and an object, but this isn't the case for every language, as you may well know. 

[00:06:41] The verb might come first or the object might come first. 

[00:06:46] With Donald Trump, he often starts with the subject and the verb, but then might get distracted and go off on a completely unrelated subject, on a complete tangent, before coming back to finish what he was originally talking about.

[00:07:02] Or sometimes he doesn't complete the sentence at all.  

[00:07:07] Understandably, this makes it incredibly difficult for anyone trying to professionally translate it, and it makes it difficult to follow for a non-native speaker.  

[00:07:19] Thirdly, and this is something that probably doesn't come as a surprise to you, but he uses a lot of vulgar language. 

]

[00:07:28] Swear words, he gives derogatory nicknames to other people and generally speaks like a child might do in a playground. 

[00:07:38] This might be good for expanding your vocabulary of swear words, but it's not very useful for professional or polite conversations.  

[00:07:48] And in terms of the style of his speech, there are a few additional things that are worth mentioning. 

[00:07:56] These aren't all remarks about the actual language he uses, but more around the style.

[00:08:03] Some of these make him easier to be understood, some make it harder. 

[00:08:08] So he uses a technique that linguists call paralipsis. This is when you mention another subject, but pretend not to mention it, normally so you can deny that you actually did mention it. 

[00:08:24] For example, he says things like, some people say that, or I've heard that, or I don't want to mention it but... 

[00:08:34] It's a way of raising the subject, of letting people know what you want to talk about and planting an idea in their heads while maintaining the ability to deny that you believe it. 

[00:08:49] It's a technique that he uses all the time and unfortunately it's pretty effective.  

[00:08:57] Secondly, he repeats everything multiple times.

[00:09:02] If he wants to make a point, he doesn't say it again using different words. 

[00:09:06] He will literally just repeat the same thing, using the same words multiple times.

[00:09:12] Again, this poses some problems for translators because repeating yourself multiple times makes you sound a bit stupid in some languages. 

[00:09:23] So do you translate him literally and make him sound a bit stupid or do you find another way of translating his language to make him sound more like a politician, but you are actually changing his style of speech? 

[00:09:38] It's been something that professional translators have been grappling with for years now. 

[00:09:45] And finally, he is a master of ambiguity, of leaving a subject open, of not saying something directly, but allowing you - the listener - to believe whatever you want.

[00:10:00] From saying things like, you all know what I'm talking about or we'll have to wait and see without ever clarifying what it is he is referring to. 

[00:10:09] He first creates this sense of suspense and he also makes you the listener feel like you can believe whatever you want to believe. 

[00:10:20] Again, it is incredibly effective.

[00:10:24] Now love him or loathe him, it's impossible to deny that the words of Donald Trump have managed to persuade the most powerful country in the world to elect him as their leader. 

[00:10:38] Knowing what we know about the style of his language, let's take a minute to think about what linguistically might have helped him appeal to voters.

[00:10:49] Our first stylistic point was that he has the vocabulary and grammar of a sixth grader, of a 12 year old.

[00:10:58] Now, while you might say that this is something that would repel voters, that would mean he would be hard to take seriously as a politician, political analysts and commentators believe this is a major part of his appeal.

[00:11:15] He talks like someone you might meet at a bar or watching a sports game, not someone who wears a suit and a tie and sits behind a desk. 

[00:11:25] It's this really weird juxtaposition where, on the one hand he is there talking about how rich he is and how he has a gold bathroom, but he is also using the language of the man next door, making grammatical errors, using childish vocabulary and talking in a very simple manner. 

[00:11:48] It's completely the opposite of his predecessor and nemesis, Barack Obama, who spoke using rich, profound language, often stopping to pause for thought and never seeming to lose his train of thought.  

[00:12:06] But for the people who hated Obama, Donald Trump was the polar opposite they were looking for, in linguistic terms as well.  

[00:12:16] He also was a practiced showman, a reality TV host, and a chief manipulator of the media. 

[00:12:24] He is a master of grabbing people's attention and knows how to use language to get what he wants, from using paralipsis to get people to think about the subject without actually saying he believes it through to using suspense and ambiguity, to get people to tune in again to what he says.

[00:12:46] He has decades of experience at capturing the attention of the American public, and boy, does he exploit it.  

[00:12:56] So the question you might be asking yourself is, what can you learn from the English of Donald Trump? 

[00:13:03] Is there something about the way he speaks, the vocabulary he uses, or his style that you can use to make yourself a better English speaker?

[00:13:14] Well, you could probably look at the English of Donald Trump and say that it is a very good argument for not worrying too much about expanding your vocabulary or grammar. 

[00:13:26] If a man can get elected to the highest political office in America with the vocabulary of a 12 year old, then you probably shouldn't worry about not having 10 different ways of saying big or beautiful.

[00:13:41] However, if you are a curious language learner, and someone who thinks of language, not just as a tool to get what you want, but an art form, a flower which you enjoy constantly cultivating, then I think there's probably a limited amount of practical things that you can take from Donald Trump, and a lot of things that you should avoid.  

[00:14:06] His racist and sexist language is of course something to avoid, but developing a sophisticated vocabulary and a richer way to say different things is something that we, as curious language learners should all be working towards. 

[00:14:23] The good news is that, linguistically at least, you're probably already not too far behind Donald Trump.

[00:14:31] Okay then that is it for today's episode on the English of Donald Trump. 

[00:14:38] Often in these episodes, I tell you where you can go to find more information on the subject, but in this case, there are literally hundreds of thousands of clips of him speaking all over the internet. 

[00:14:51] If you haven't already listened to him speaking in English, do give it a try and let me know what you think.

[00:14:57] Do you find him easy to understand? 

[00:14:59] If not what's difficult? 

[00:15:02] I would love to know how you get on, you can email hi, Hi@leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:15:09] And as one final reminder, if you are looking to improve your English in a more interesting way, to join a community of curious minds from all over the world and to unlock the transcripts, subtitles and key vocabulary, then the place to go to is Leonardoenglish.com. 

[00:15:27] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English. 

[00:15:33] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

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