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Conveying a passion: Translating sports in Brazil (an excerpt)

This week we thought we would share a bit of our CEO's latest article that came out in this month's Multilingual Magazine. Soccer has been a long-time passion for her family, and as she works in the T&I industry, language is obviously another. So, why not tie in the sport to the work going on for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil? Here's an excerpt from Madalena's article "Conveying a passion: Translating sports in Brazil". Sports are a favorite pastime for many Brazilians, as well as for many people of various countries in the world, of course, and soccer is often the international sport of choice. Soccer fans are gearing up for the upcoming Copa do Mundo to be held in Brazil, as it was named host country for the 2014 World Cup by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) president Joseph S. Blatter in October 2007 from its headquarters in Zurich, and aficionados worldwide will be ready to show off their own national team colors.

Twelve cities are set to host the games, including Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Cuiabá, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Porto Alegre, Salvador, São Paulo, Recife, and of course, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s most famous city. The first match will take place in São Paulo on June 12, 2014. For now, some soccer stadiums are undergoing renovations, while others are being rebuilt or new ones constructed. According to FIFA, there are approximately 23,306 workers assisting in the construction, however, as of late, many criticize the FIFA officials due to the slow progress of construction and transportation infrastructures. In fact, as recently as March of this year, Jérôme Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general, formally apologized to Brazil’s sports minister, Aldo Rebelo. The apology came after a statement he made was translated incorrectly, according to Valcke. He said, “In French, 'se donner uncoup de pied aux fesses' means only 'to speed up the pace' and unfortunately this expression was translated into Portuguese using much stronger words.” However, as the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo mentions, this phrase literally means “give a kick in the butt." Many Brazilians are unhappy with what the secretary general called a “misinterpretation in the translation.”

Gaffes in translation and interpretation are not unheard of in the World Cup. In fact, globalization Group, Inc., published its top World Cup Translation Bloopers on its blog, and two of the most grievous mistakes occurred in the 2010 Cup in South Africa. Often these types of bloopers refer to a certain phrase or word that was mistranslated, but at a press conference for the Slovenian team, FIFA erroneously provided a Slovak interpreter. The mistake was quickly resolved, but the Slovenian team did not find the error humorous. Later on, a Slovene player’s words were misinterpreted when midfielder Andrej Komac said “we play to win.” The interpreter at the press conference stated “we are going to win,” which brought forth a response from the US goalkeeper, Tim Howard, who retorted, “Talk is cheap.” This obviously misconstrued statement from the Slovene player demonstrates the indirect power translators and interpreters have in large scale events like these, and walking the fine line of neutrality can be difficult with so much pressure involved.


Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism estimates that two million jobs will be created by the soccer championship’s events in 2014. Several translation agencies such as CMG Translations are requesting résumés for English, French, Mandarin and Spanish to Portuguese translators, as they hope to handle some of the translation work that will result from the World Cup, and later, for the Olympics. Another company already working with Brazil’s Ministry of Tourism is Education First. However, the company is focusing less on translation, and more on teaching hospitality and tourism professionals to speak English and Spanish through a partnership with the Ministry of Tourism and Fundação Roberto Marinho called Olá Turista. Via its online English school, Englishtown, the company claims to be preparing 80,000 Brazilians per year, including restaurateurs, tour guides and taxi drivers. The company will also provide language instruction for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games to be held in Sochi, Russia. Many other companies are approaching the Ministry of Tourism due to its posted summary of professional opportunities related to translation.

As Brazil continues to prepare for the World Cup, and later the Olympics in 2016, professional translators and interpreters will be curious to see the marketing materials, press conferences and more translated and interpreted for sports fans worldwide. It seems that many who perhaps do not even live in Brazil will have the opportunity to take part in rendering messages of the much anticipated tournaments for members of their own linguistic communities. These translations will not only reveal a country’s love for soccer, but also unite the world around a single passion. Although the Cup is only two years from now, there still appears to be plenty of work to go around.