News | 11.06.2010

World Cup Team Talk: Automatic translation used in multilingual football forum and other language initiatives for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™

For three weeks in 2010, football will be the lingua franca uniting millions of people throughout the world. But this does not mean that language issues have been pushed to the sidelines. Far from it. The provision of translation and interpreting services has been booming both by the host nation and further afield.

In May 2010, The Translation People reported on some of the linguistic highlights surrounding the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, but since going to press, exciting new developments have been announced.

The South African Government have since outlined 56 dedicated courts throughout the country set up to accommodate ‘transgressions of the law’ arising between 28 May 2010 and 25 July 2010. There are 93 foreign language interpreters and 110 local language interpreters involved in these special courts, and the move has been fully commended by FIFA; a 24-hour multilingual hotline for visitors should they require police or medical services; and the national emergency telephone service has been buoyed by 114 interpreters covering languages such as Russian, Chinese, Arabic, German and Urdu. In addition, the 18,000-strong team of volunteers on the ground come from 170 different countries and they are all required to be multilingual.

Closer to home, the BBC World Service are celebrating the opening and closing matches of the World Cup finals with a real-time football forum powered by automatic translation. Its aim is not only to unite fans, but to enable them to have a ‘global, multi-lingual conversation’. The forum is called World Cup Team Talk and is available in the following eleven languages: Albanian, Arabic, Brazilian, Chinese, English, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Vietnamese and Welsh. Using Google Translate as the machine translation tool, a comment posted in any of the aforementioned languages is automatically translated into the remaining languages and the translations simultaneously appear on the screen.

Nelson Mandela said that ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’ In a host country with eleven official languages, a multilingual national anthem, and thousands of international visitors to cater for in the next three weeks, South Africa is certainly doing its part to ensure that the only language people need to be fluent in is the international language of football itself.

Sources: BBC World Service;;;;

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