How Trump’s ‘Shithole’ Comment was Translated By Asian Media Around the World

How Trump’s ‘Shithole’ Comment was Translated By Asian Media Around the WorldHow Trump’s ‘Shithole’ Comment was Translated By Asian Media Around the World
Heather Johnson Yu
January 12, 2018
President Trump has again made headlines , this time for using the term “shithole” to describe Haiti and various African nations. In a meeting discussing the future of DACA, green cards, and immigration, Trump reportedly blurted out, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?
He then posited that immigrants from other countries, such as Norway, should be welcomed.
The appalling comments made international news, reaching other countries within the blink of an eye; of course, his words had to be translated first, which has presented interesting challenges for non-English publications.
It’s no secret that Japan doesn’t like translating his words for fear of looking stupid; nevertheless, news must be written, and his eloquence (or lack thereof) must be translated. Channel News Asia has taken it upon themselves to collect some of the more interesting versions of Trump’s usage of the term “shithole”. Here are our favorites:


via Flickr / Steve Davis (CC BY 2.0)
Chinese media apparently didn’t feel that a direct translation was appropriate for their readers, and instead tried to interpret what Trump could have possibly meant instead of taking him literally. Most outlets, therefore, translated his phrase as “languo” meaning “bad countries”, courtesy of People’s Daily translation.


In perhaps the most confusing translation, Taipei’s CNA news agency tiptoed around the phrase, choosing “countries where birds don’t lay eggs” instead.


As polite as ever, Japanese news outlets did their best to ensure readers weren’t offended; NHK chose to go with the phrase “filthy countries”.
BBC’s Japanese-language service took the literal meaning of the word, using a phrase that means “a tank to hold excrement”, referring to manure.
Newswire Jiji Press decided to take it a step further, going with “countries like toilets” but in a less vulgar colloquialism.
The Sankei Shimbun, however, takes the cake, translating it as “countries as dirty as outdoor toilets”.


Vietnam struggled with the translation, but local media’s valiant efforts spanned the gamut from “dirty countries” to “rubbish countries” to “rotten countries”.


via Wikimedia Commons / Guillaume Speurt (CC BY-SA 2.0)
U.S.-backed Voice of America’s Thai service perhaps put in the most effort, not only translating the word but informing readers the meaning behind it, stating “this English word could translate as a ‘hole of waste from excrement,’ which reflects that he considered [them] low-class countries“.


Yonhap set the pace for South Korea, referring to the term as “beggar’s den”. Most media outlets took their translations from them, and the phrase stuck.


via Flickr / Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Philippines have their own foul-mouthed leader in president Rodrigo Duterte, so the largely English-language media didn’t bat an eye at Trump’s comment.
“Trump: Why allow immigrants from ‘shithole countries?'” headlined the Philippine Star.
Have you seen a tricky translation of Trump’s remarks? Let us know in the comments!
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