The Olympics are one of the most anticipated sporting events, bringing the world together, and at the same time they bring unity within countries around the globe, as pride is felt when seeing fellow citizens compete and do impressing performances.
If you speak a foreign language and you were to travel to London to see a competition, there is a good chance you might come across bad translations. We have posted in this blog about bad translations as humorous circumstances, but when it comes to the Olympics, not everyone thinks it is very funny. After all, it is the responsibility of the nation that is hosting to ensure that everyone understands what is going on.
As B.J. Epstein, from the Huffington Post in the UK, said beautifully, “A good translation not only helps with that goal but also suggests that people’s needs are taken seriously into consideration… And considering the amount of money spent on the Olympics in London, it wouldn’t have added much to the budget to hire translators. Translation is not a task that can be completed by relying on Google translation software or on a friend of a friend who happens to know a bit of Spanish or Chinese. Translation is a profession and must be treated as such.”
Here are three examples on bad translations and uncomfortable situations, which could have been avoided by hiring professional linguists:
- British commentators keep mispronouncing names, making awkward jokes after not being able to say the names clearly and also saying how they would be glad if they never have to pronounce those names again. If there would have been interpreters or linguists hired to give a short training (maybe add a cultural sensitive workshop in there), or to write a pronunciation guide, this could have been avoided.
- On the first day, the South Korea flag was depicted instead of the North Korean one (who were actually competing). This is an awful mistake to make, as they are two different countries. It goes without saying that North Koreans were very offended. Again, linguists could have helped with this.
- Then there were the Arabic signs that made the news, because they were supposed to be welcoming Arabic readers to the games, but the spelling was backwards. This could have been an error at the printer, but a translator could have gone through all the documents to ensure accuracy.