Friday, 6 July 2012

What football and translation have in common


As the UEFA European Championship was coming up, I couldn’t resist diving back for a while into what I did a lot during my teenage years: watching football − and getting fully drawn into the suspense of it!

I’m probably striking a chord with some of you when I say there can be more suspense in a decisive football match than in many Hollywood movies. This is because in football anything can happen, and you can never look up the outcome beforehand. I find this immensely intriguing. Football is also something easy to follow – and after 6, 7 or 8 hours of mental acrobatics doing translation in the daytime, what could be better than getting engrossed in some easy viewing? We had friends round for quite a few of the European Championship matches, and I personally cannot imagine a more perfect evening than watching the footie with friends.

I sometimes wonder why as a teenager I’d often rather follow Bundesliga or international football matches on radio, TV or even at the stadium during weekends than picking up a novel or watching a movie instead. Sure the enthusiasm runs in my family, but I guess it’s also because novels and movies are (by their very nature, obviously) so blatantly made up; they are not real.

Translation, like football, is something of the real world too. Real translation is about real products, real inventions, real companies, real marketing campaigns. Real translation is worlds away from the type of translation that the average person in the street encountered when being taught a foreign language at school. Translation at school often consists of nothing more than a few made-up, easy-to-see-through sentences, which tend to have the sole purpose of drumming some grammar rule into students heads.

For the European Championship last month, we had German TV switched on in the living room and British TV in the kitchen, so there was even ample opportunity to brush up on knowledge of English versus German football terminology and phrases!