Summer, among many other things, brings us great sports events – the Tour de France, Wimbledon – but this year we will also be enjoying the greatest sports event: the Olympic Games, which this year are being held in Rio. Or should we say Rio de Janeiro? This is, after all, its full Portuguese name. This and many other linguistic matters are highly relevant these days, for this meeting point for nations is also necessarily a meeting point of languages, a real Babel rower which needs, questions, and sometimes changes language. Communication is basic in such a huge event, and the work of writers, translators, and interpreters is crucial.


Sports translation has been warming up towards the Olympics: legal documents, advertising, merchandising, articles, press releases and messages. But it also plays a central role in the organisation of the various sports competitions. Everyone will want to receive up to date information through the multiple media, and this is no doubt possible thanks to the arduous work of translation professionals.

When it comes to interviewing athletes, it’s the turn of interpreters, or in their absence, journalists who speak more than one language. These language professionals have the great responsibility of conveying someone’s message to millions of viewers, which can sometimes turn into a hurdle race, as they may have to translate, for examples, Yohan Blake. How’s your Jamaican English these days?

This small detail should make us aware of the importance of language professionals in this kind of event. If you do not entrust professional translators and interpreters with these tasks, you may end up with conmen, like the sign language interpreter who pulled everyone’s leg in Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

You always learn one or more new words in the social revolution that are the Olympics. Who had heard about the Zika virus last year? Unfortunately, we are all now familiar with it. It may also be a good time to learn new words or to refresh our existing vocabulary, which we kept in storage with our trainers. Many institutions have got going, such as Termcat, the terminology centre for the Catalan language, which is offering information on a regular basis under the #termOlimpics hashtag.

Your children may be curious about specific sports terms. Make use of this opportunity to arouse curiosity in language in them, making them aware of their importance outside textbooks.

Perhaps you had never thought about the long-distance race of translators and interpreters these days. Their success will be based on their experience, knowledge, and passion for their work. We are closely following the Olympics, taking not of all their linguistic achievements.


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