With the FIFA World Cup just some months from now, players, coaches, managers, support staff, marketing staff, medical staff, and even event staff are already preparing to come from all over the world and speak hundreds of languages. As one of the most popular events globally, it is estimated that more than 1.5 million people will visit Qatar between November 21 and December 18 this 2022. Countdown begins!
With those numbers, we can say Sport is an area that unites many countries and cultures, and is quite simply a universal language that everyone understands. We also spend countless hours watching sports coverage, broadcast on various global media platforms. In 2018 for example, nothing less than 3.572 million people watched the last edition of the World Cup that took place in Russia!
This type of events are an excellent opportunity to continue breaking down barriers between languages and cultures because in fact, behind the scenes at many events and training sessions, there are translators and interpreters helping players, athletes and spectators to get the most out of their sporting experience — sometimes players on the same team don’t even speak the same language, as players may get traded or drafted by teams in different countries.
Inside FIFA’s language services
FIFA has 211 member associations around the world. Over 500 employees from 50 different countries work at its headquarters in Zurich. Considering those numbers, and the fact that the language of sports is as specific and old as medical or legal terminology, it is no surprising that they provide professional interpreting in its four official languages (English, French, German, and Spanish) at games and events.
According to Caitlin Stephens, Deputy Head of Language Services at FIFA, they translate some three million words per language per year! As Stephens points out, “language services play a vital role in FIFA’s communications.”
For the Confederations Cup and the World Cup for example, media interpreters organized by FIFA provide interpreting in several languages for media briefings and flash interviews (i.e., English, French, Spanish, the host country’s language plus various team and coach languages). Even remote interpreting was used for the first time at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil!