The World Cup 2018: Translation in the Sports Industry

We are well into this year’s world cup and excited to shed some light on what a huge portion of the translation industry is – sports. We’ve written about how translation is imperative in politics and the beauty industry, and the same goes for athletics! With 32 teams traveling to Russia, the host nation must have its bases covered. This includes providing language services for the hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world attending the event. Every four years, FIFA hosts volunteers from over 100 countries to perform services at the games, ranging from interpretation to merchandising.

One of the most important volunteer positions at the event is translation and interpretation. The official language of FIFA’s world cup is English, so although the games will be held in Russia, all official documentation will need to be available in (perfect) English always. Those who decide to work as translation specialists at the World Cup are considered a part of the specialist staff, who are given more access to the event. Other specialist staff includes medical professionals, or members of the press. These staff will be present at every single match translating the events in real time, as they happen.

So, from June 14 through July 15, fans from all over the world will be enjoying the football (soccer) tournament! Every four years, the tournament is more and more popular, with nations such as China and Japan getting every more involved. This year, a total of 209 nations played to quality, with Russia qualifying automatically since it is the host nation. The events are referred by 36 football professionals with 63 assistants, all coming from 46 different countries.

This year is the first year that four qualified Arab nations are playing in the tournament. Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco are all participating, meaning that Arabic and French will be widely represented among the visitors. We also have three Nordic nations playing – Iceland Sweden and Denmark all qualified – meaning that we’ll also have a prevalence of Nordic language speakers.

While we might think of translation for the games as something for the public, it is a huge part of the behind the scenes work that goes on at any international sporting event. Interpreters must be available to ensure that athletes can communicate effectively with medics, and to assist anti-doping judges when it comes to testing athletes from all over the world.

Although sports and athletics might be considered international events that require no translation, referees also need to be able to communicate with players, and viewers need help understanding what is going on. All referees chosen by FIFA must be fluent in English, and ideally one of FIFA’s other official languages. FIFA – the Fédération Internationale de Football Association – is football’s international governing body, responsible for the World Cup since 1930. It was founded in 1904 to oversee international competition among the national associations of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Headquartered in Zürich, its membership now comprises 211 national associations.

We are excited to follow the rest of the world cup international football tournament and will certainly be thinking about all the hard translation work going on both on, and off the field!