Global sport meets global English: you’re the referee
Athletes and others involved in the highly visible world of sport sometimes speak through interpreters and sometimes don’t. Who are the winners and losers?
Articles about language in the world of sport can illustrate more general questions, such as:
- Do people communicate more effectively in a lingua franca or by speaking their mother tongue?
- Is translation just a matter of words?
- Is use of English seen as a prerequisite for international respectability?
- Is something invariably lost in translation or is something perhaps gained?
The examples I’ve come across don’t necessarily provide answers, just a few hints and a dose of entertainment. After all, sport is all about fun, isn’t it? Here we go - get your scorecards ready!
Nadal and Ferrer in two languages
Up first is the Open Racket column in The Wall Street Journal. Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer were each asked, “How do you feel about your game as we head into the second week of the tournament?” and requested to respond in both English and Spanish. The two answers were then compared. Each player’s response in his mother tongue was more nuanced, especially in Ferrer’s case. For more read Same Query in Two Languages Doesn’t Necessarily Translate.
Manchester United player allegedly criticizes manager
When asked why he hadn’t been playing much under new manager David Moyes, Shinji Kagawa was reported to have said, “Please ask David Moyes why I'm not in the side”. But when Ben Mabley, a freelance journalist and translator based in Osaka, read this he was suspicious and came to the conclusion that it was a case of mistranslation, with cultural and linguistic subtleties - and a good deal of context - lost in the shuffle.
Mr. Mabley also notes "... the truth is that many quotes will be gathered by journalists with full command of either original or target language – but not both – then crudely translated to be polished for publication later. Often, the hurried translation process involves little more than asking a similarly busy, in this case Japanese journalist, for the basic gist.”
And music to the ears of all translators and interpreters: “... as any professional translator knows, mastery of multiple languages is no guarantee of the skill to interpret accurately between them.”
Interpreters on the mound
You can also read more about interpreting for baseball in this Nataly Kelly interview of Kenji Nimura in The Huffington Post blog.
Pitchers trade interpreters
Madrid mayor Ana Botella speaks English before the IOC
Ana Botella’s speech in English supporting Madrid’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games has gone viral in Spain and beyond. Some even blame her for Madrid losing out to Tokyo, though that seems like an idea far out in left field. Eduardo Paz agrees and has explained why in this post on Bootheando (in Spanish).
Nonetheless, the speech has touched nerves and funny bones. Her invitation to a “relaxing cup of café con leche” has already entered the pantheon of memorable quotes. Curious? Go directly to the video on youtube and the countless comments it provoked.
If you translate and/or interpret from English, be sure to brush up on your sport analogies – the native variety of the language has more of them than Louisville has bats, and you certainly don’t want to strike out when the game's on the line.
And for some real sporting humor from the diamond, don’t miss the video of Abbott and Castello's classic Who’s on first.
Articles published in this section reflect the views of the author(s) and should not be taken to represent the official position of AIIC.
Recommended citation format:Luigi LUCCARELLI. "Global sport meets global English: you’re the referee". aiic.net September 30, 2013. Accessed January 22, 2020. <http://aiic.net/p/6601>.
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