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Translation problems at Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing

Posted on 13 Dec 2019

When one of China's biggest swimming stars went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for the right to compete at Tokyo 2020 - the summer Olympics - it was reported that translation problems began almost immediately.

According to newspaper reports, interpreting issues in both English and Chinese brought the hearing to a standstill several times with much of the testimony and questions being miscommunicated and judges and lawyers expressing their frustrations.

The case was brought after champion swimmer Sun Yang refused to co-operate with three anti-doping officials during a random test at his home in China in September 2018.

According to reports in the Japan Times, one lawyer said that the translation was so poor that it was difficult to tell if Sun Yang was being evasive or it was misunderstood translation.

The BBC reported that the swimmer's lawyer, Iain Meakin, said, "If you want him to answer the question, the translation must be correct", when referring to a question which had been translated into Chinese as "200 milliliters of blood" instead of "200 times".

The outcome of the championship swimmer's hearing will be announced next year but what was apparent at the hearing was the poor quality of interpreting during a complex legal hearing.

In the wider sporting world, there was also a recent interpreting incident during a pre-match football media conference in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, with the Welsh squad. A UEFA- appointed interpreter for the pre-match interview with Azerbaijan was removed almost on the spot by the Welsh FA over concerns about her knowledge and experience, particularly after asking Ryan Giggs, "Who is Gareth Bale?".

It's the second Euro 2020 qualifier, where Wales has encountered trouble with interpreting. The first was in Cardiff last month after a Croatian interpreter was deemed not good enough.

Advances in technology have meant global tournaments like the Olympics now attract a level of participation and fan interaction that was unthinkable 20 years ago. This has seen an increased need not only for localised marketing materials but also for legislation and regulatory requirements, just like in Sun Yang's doping trial.

The fight against anti-doping, corruption, and the development of sports on an international scale rely on top-level language services, carried out by real experts with the highest levels of accuracy and confidentiality.

International sporting federations such as FIFA and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) understand just how important translation and interpreting services are in hosting successful sporting events. It's been widely reported in the press that FIFA translates some three million words, every year for their official languages, which include French, German, Spanish and English.

History is littered with poor examples of when translation and interpreting goes wrong. This can often ruin marketing campaigns, destroy reputations and even lead to court cases.

Having the right experience and subject area knowledge is essential, as are the strictest confidential procedures. Using a specialist language provider who understands rules and regulations within a specific sector is vital to avoid any errors.

At City Legal, we always advise our clients to do their research and check an agency's credentials before working with them. Furthermore, check their level of experience within the legal world itself. We ensure that all of our translators and interpreters are native speakers with a minimum of five years' experience in legal translation and interpreting. Our dedicated team are fully equipped to handle complex legal language projects.

If you would like to find out more about our legal translation services, click or call 0800 0966 825.

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