An interpretation specialty we seldom include as part of the profession.

August 31, 2012 § 3 Comments

Dear Colleagues,

I was catching up with a friend from many years ago over dinner when the conversation turned to our careers and he asked me if I still liked interpreting. When my answer was a resounding yes he followed up with a second question: “Is this your dream job?”  I even surprised myself when I answered with no hesitation: “My dream job would definitely be to work as a sports interpreter.

My friend looked surprised. He seemed to have a hard time understanding my answer.  The truth is that although I have been very fortunate to interpret for heads of state, Nobel Prize winners, and even high-profile criminals, I have always wondered what it would be like to combine two of the things I love in life: interpreting and sports.

The sports interpreter is a professional who specializes in a very tough field. To do their job, they need to know everything that a top-level interpreter knows and then some:  They need to know the sport, its rules, history, current status; they have to master the discipline’s terminology and they must know the athlete’s personality.  A sports interpreter has to be accurate and thorough, and at the same time render the interpretation within the constraints of a press conference or broadcast that often limits the time the interpreter has for the rendition.  It is not easy to interpret between rounds during a boxing match, or during the singing of “Take me out to the ballgame” during the seventh game of the World Series. To accomplish it, these interpreters have to filter the professional athlete’s answers to a journalist’s questions, discarding the endless “thank yous” and self-serving promotion.  Their job is to inform the journalist and the public interpreting the relevant statements under adverse circumstances: noise, crowds, and huge egos.

I have always fantasized what it would be like to travel with the Los Angeles Dodgers like interpreter Kenji Nimura does every summer, or to hang out with Hideki Matsui and the rest of the New York Yankees during the playoffs like “Roger” Kahlon did.  I can only imagine Jerry Olaya’s adrenaline rush when he steps into the ring to interpret for all those Spanish-speaking world champions after a big fight that is being watched by millions on pay-per-view.

Yes, for a baseball-loving interpreter like me who goes to Las Vegas to see the championship fights, gets the cable TV season ticket to watch all NFL games every season, or buys tickets to a curling event,  to do their job would be a dream come true.  I respect and admire these colleagues because of what they do.  I am sure that all of you who have been in a situation when you are expected to interpret sports terminology understand what I am saying, so my question to you is twofold: Do you think we should embrace these often overlooked colleagues and make them a part of our professional organizations? and, will you tell us what your dream interpretation job is?

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§ 3 Responses to An interpretation specialty we seldom include as part of the profession.

  • Andy Shmushkin says:

    Ugh! Sports are the sigh of the oppressed creature, the opium of the masses.

  • Recep says:

    At the beginning of my career I worked as an interpreter at a Turkish swimming team for two years and I enjoyed it immensely. As a football (soccer) fan, my dream job would be to work as an interpreter for the team I support, but unfortunately they don’t have any English or Russian players 🙂

  • Lionel says:

    I have a story to tell you Tony. A few years ago a colleague contacted me about an interpreting job, for a soccer game. I was to watch and listen the game through one of the Spanish TV networks and interpret the play by play into English. Despite the fact I am an avid soccer fan, I was left in the dust trying to keep up with the furiously fast speed of the commentator. The pay was good but I would never put myself through that torture again.

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