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Linguists Must Talk Language of Sport
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Translators and interpreters at next year's Games will need more than just knowledge of a couple of languages, an expert has said. They'll also need to be able to speak the language of sport.


As American Colin Pine -- Yao Ming's aide and translator in the US -- once said: "Chinese was my second language, basketball was my third."


Without understanding sports terminology, translators will be unable to properly express what the athletes and officials are saying, Li Yashu, vice-chairman of the Translation Association of China said during in an interview with China Youth Daily recently.


And a recent survey -- jointly conducted by the Science & Technology Translators' Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Transn Information Technology Ltd -- has shown that linguists with good sports knowledge are in short supply.


Transn provides language services for the website of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games.


The research team spoke to 15,000 professional translators and interpreters and found that less than 1.3 percent of them were competent when it came to sports work.


Despite that, some 10,000 language experts will be needed at next year's Games, the report said.


Currently, there are about 300,000 professional translators and interpreters in China, with more than a quarter of them in Beijing.


Of those working in the capital, 98.4 percent specialize in one of the six major languages of English, French, German, Russian, Korean and Japanese.


The rest support about 40 other languages.


Li said courses needed to be provided to help linguists improve their sports knowledge, and he called on language schools and training centers to help.


"Courses are needed to prepare translators and interpreters for the demands of the Olympics," he said.


Interpreter Zhang Xinxin agrees. When she first began working as a conference interpreter for Olympic-related press conferences, she said most of the sports terms were new to her.


"But it doesn't take long for a good translator to learn," she said.


The value of Olympics-related translation services will be about 700 billion yuan (US$92.4 billion).


(China Daily August 8, 2007)

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