Languages and Football – more relevant now than ever
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa has focussed minds on the growing importance of languages in the football industry. Thousands of fans will be flocking to the African country this summer to watch the world’s leading footballers battle it out for the ultimate prize in football, while millions of others will watch from the comfort of their own home or their local pub. The competition will trigger a whole host of language and translation related requirements: information for fans on the ground, interpreters at press conferences, sponsor advertising, subtitles for post match interviews with Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney (even if viewers can understand English, they may find it difficult to get to grips with his dulcet Liverpudlian tones)! During the World Cup South Africa will host 32 nations, many of whom will speak different languages, so the need for language related services will doubtless be high.
Of course the World Cup (unfortunately for us football fans) only comes around every four years, but the need for language related services has been rising steadily as the movement of players around the world has increased. Just one look at the teams of the top English Premiership clubs shows that English is not necessarily their first language: Vidic, Benitez, Wenger, Drogba, Tevez to name but a few.
Whilst these players and managers have all their contractual documents translated for them and interpreters provided, they can’t have translators with them all the time, and one wonders what the first English phrase was that they learnt: “I didn’t touch him ref” and “I got the ball ref” are sure to be the first things that they learn, while Thierry Henry probably learnt how to say “It didn’t touch my hand” quite soon on! Arsene Wenger’s first question to his English teacher could feasibly have been, “comment-on dit : ‘Je ne l’ai pas encore vu’?” Or, in English, “how do you say ‘I haven’t seen it yet?’” On a more serious note, interpreters for managers at press conferences have often commented on the difficulty in translating phrases that are common in football: “it was a game of two halves”, “strength in depth” and “we’re down to the bare bones” being three obvious ones whose foreign equivalents are expressed very differently in other languages.
One thing that is surely set to continue is the blame players apportion to mistranslation when they are quoted in local press. Two recent examples of this are Manchester City’s South American stars Carlos Tevez and Robinho: the former regarding his comments on his spat with Gary Neville and the latter regarding his possible transfer or loan deal to another club. Tevez described Neville as a ‘tarado’ which can be translated from Spanish with differing degrees of strength, the milder version is ‘boot-licking moron’, but it has been claimed that it can mean something a little stronger! Meanwhile, Robinho and his club Santos have made comments in Brazil that can be interpreted slightly differently according to which club’s fans are reading it. For Santos fans the translation read “I’m desperate to join my old club”, for City fans it’s more like “I’m flattered by their interest but I’m just focussing on my next game for City!” We’ll probably find out which he really meant by the end of the transfer window!