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  • Writer's pictureSean Earley

The Role of Translation in Sport

We are constantly presented with reasons why we should be divided: race, sex, religion, age… but nothing unites the world quite like our love for sport. You can visit any country in the world and there will be competitions, rivalries and supporters. Sport stars have a different identity in the world nowadays. They have evolved from merely playing the game just for the love of it into global celebrities. You’ll struggle to find someone who hasn’t heard the name Lionel Messi, LeBron James or Roger Federer and this is a result of the expansion of sport to a global audience.

Thanks to translators, athletes and sports teams can market themselves to the masses. People can read about their favourite snooker player, get updates on the Indian Premier League, even attend the Olympics in a foreign country without being totally lost accessing the venues.


Thanks to interpreters, players can easily sign for foreign football clubs, give post-match interviews that can be heard around the world and even listen to tactical briefings that require advanced linguistic ability.


If you haven’t picked up on this already I’m going to knock this point out of the park. Translators are vital for the sports industry!

Moreover, being a sports translator requires specific expertise. Not everyone who speaks a foreign language and not every sports enthusiast can be a good sports translator. It requires not only a brilliant command of both languages, but also knowledge of industry terminology.


It can all go horribly wrong when it is not left to the professionals. Naoyuki Oi is a Japanese pool player famous for his difficulties with the English language . But not all of us can be ‘today very lucky!’ and tell ourselves ‘congratulation me’ with the charisma to get away with it.


The sports industry, in particular, is a landmine of idioms and particular vocabulary. How would you translate: ‘Absolutely stunning arrows! He secures the leg by taking out the big fish for his second ton plus finish of the match’? Do you know what a ‘tomahawk serve’ is? How about a ‘false 9'? Those with only a casual interest in sports might even struggle to understand these terms in their mother tongue. Meanwhile, sports translators need to have the expertise to understand these terms not just in their own language, but in other languages too.

This all goes to show how much translators need to keep learning and improving their linguistic ability. Whether it be in the sports industry, art, science, financial or legal sector, it is a job that requires you to constantly stay updated within your industry.


Have you ever experienced a language barrier in the sports world?


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