Is there any sector that is more international than the world of sport? World cups, the signing of athletes from other countries, European competitions, negotiations… How many times have you seen elite athletes in front of the mic attempting to unsuccessfully express themselves in a language they don’t master and journalists desperately trying to make out what they’re saying? 

To avoid such awkward yet amusing situations, like that involving the Spanish footballer Joaquín, there are professional interpreters and translators. 

English is the language typically used in the world of sport; however, professional interpreters and translators are essential at times, either because the speakers aren’t familiar with the language the other speaker uses to communicate, or because the intention is to offer quality language services. 

In this article, we want to help you learn about the different modes of sports interpretation in a fun way using examples of awkward situations encountered by some professional interpreters. What’s more, we want to promote their work so that the public can better understand their profession and the demands it entails. 

Unfortunately, interpreters often unintentionally make the news through headlines such as “the translator’s mistake”, without the following being taken into account: 

– The acoustics of the space: Did the interpreter have all the resources required to correctly carry out the job? 

– The fact that the speaker is not speaking in their mother tongue: Does the speaker make mistakes or not express him or herself correctly? 

– Fatigue: Has the interpreter had all the stipulated breaks or has a colleague taken over after interpreting for a long time? 

Now that we’ve seen all the factors that can impact on an interpreter’s performance, we’re going to explain the modes of interpretation to better understand their work. 

Consecutive interpretation 

Press conferences are an obvious example of this mode of interpretation. Journalists ask a question while the interpreter takes notes. The interpreter than translates the question to the interviewee. Then, while the interviewee answers the question, the interpreter carries on taking notes to subsequently translate the answer in full to the journalists. 

These notes can’t be a complete transcript of what is said, as it’s practically impossible to write as fast as a person speaks. They simply serve as a prompt for the interpreter, who has to use their trained memory to reproduce the message, which at times can last several minutes. 

Due to the huge mental effort that interpretation requires, interpreters need to take breaks or even two interpreters have to alternate. The football trainer Marcelo Bielsa appears to be fully aware of this and wanted to let his interpreter and the journalists know during a press conference. 

Example of consecutive interpretation where the interpreter sits next to the interviewee. 

Simultaneous interpretation 

Unlike consecutive interpretation, where the interpreter “takes turns” with the speakers to speak, in simultaneous interpretation, the interpreter translates while the speaker is speaking. Therefore, it’s necessary to have the right resources, including soundproof booths with sound systems or devices designed for interpretation with microphones for the interpreter and headphones for the journalists, in this case. 

This mode is used in situations where there is a high number of people, as it enables what a speaker is saying to be translated into several languages at once (as many languages as interpreters). 

Although this mode is occasionally used in press conferences, it’s more common at large events like award ceremonies or inaugural speeches at sports events. 

Example of simultaneous interpretation where the interviewee uses headphones to listen to the interpreter. 

Whispered interpretation or chuchotage 

It’s very similar to simultaneous interpretation, since the interpreter also translates the message at the same time as hearing the speech; however, unlike simultaneous interpretation, the interpreter speaks quietly or “whispers” (hence the name). This means that there’s no need to invest in the entire technical installation required by simultaneous interpretation (booths, headphones, microphones, etc.), making it a more cost-effective alternative. It is, however, only recommended for small events (since the interpreter’s voice can disturb those who prefer to hear the speech in the original language) and events that don’t last long (since, without headphones, the interpreter will have to make more effort to listen and concentrate). 

We tend to see whispered interpretation, for example, during time-outs at basketball matches (when a player doesn’t speak the trainer’s language). 

How could we end this article without mentioning the football trainer Mourinho? Not only has been the star of numerous “awkward” situations with journalists, he’s also been embroiled in controversy with interpreters more than once and has even corrected them. But we’re not going to talk about this here, but rather his role as an “interpreter”. Although he can communicate in several languages, his methods are very different from those accepted and used by professional interpreters. 

Firstly, an interpreter never finishes the speaker’s sentences. Needless to say, neither can an interpreter add information that hasn’t been mentioned by the speaker. In consecutive interpretation, the interpreter cannot speak at the same time as the speaker, but rather waits until the speaker has finished. Lastly, the interpreter’s tone of voice and facial expressions have to be neutral and not express disgust, surprise or too much emotion, as 

the interpreter does not imitate the speaker, but rather is limited to transmitting the message. 

If you’re organising a sports event, need interpreters and still have questions after reading this article, get in touch with our team of professional translators and interpreters here at Tatutrad. We’ll be delighted to help you! 

Diana Lindo Cuéllar LinkedIn:éllar-827a82a8