Allow me to kick off with a statement from the heart — for football is an emotional experience. As part of the community of fans we feel the rollercoaster of emotions in the most exuberant form. We become inseparable with the game, its ethos and ideology. Before we know it football becomes an integral part of our life and of the language — for the language is a mirror of life. The latter applies even to those who have never watched a football match in their lives.
And that is because language does not tolerate being kept at bay. Similarly to any other living organism it strives to evolve, push the boundaries, amaze and amuse. Thus the language of football never stays in the domain of sport. Instead it moves the goalposts of our everyday vocabulary and often serves as a centre forward in the field of linguistics. Especially, it could become a powerful tool in the world of commerce or politics where one often would love to be that fox in the box who is capable of making their opponents believe in what is desirable to them — using the mighty power of the word.
For Russia, 2018 has certainly become the year of football. The theme of the World Cup has soared like a winning shot across the field of Russian linguistics bringing new lexical units and enriching the old ones with an array of new meanings.
Translators, representing a very special and unique type of linguists, not only see the world through the spectacles of written discourse but also perpetually stand at the forefront of the language. We are those meticulous “watchdogs” that constantly “keep an eye on the ball” catching neologisms and new semantic nuances well before they settle in the paper dictionaries. Our fingers are always on the pulse of the language.
For me this year has been a hat-trick. First of all, I fell in love with football. I confess I was gender-biased in that I believed football to belong to the sphere of boys, men and beer lovers. This year I was overwhelmed by the amount of demands for “football translation”. Through my company and personally as a translator and proof-reader I have received a vast amount of requests for translating football-related material, including articles describing football matches and updates for football supporters.
Each translation is a project. So, for several months by now I have been submerged into profound research on football and virtually everything that is related to this sport. I was amazed at how colourful the language of football can be, how rich the allegories are and how linguistically advanced are those that discuss football in their articles, blogs and comments. What I discovered was comparable to the sublime world of the literary translation, but with a compulsory dimension of poetry in which the mis-translation of an idiom or metaphor could leave the target audience scratching their heads or helpless with laughter. Translating these texts was a sheer joy, delight and a huge challenge. I had to become a football fan to be able to feel that football fever, that drive that would propel the emotion of my translations for the target reader.
Secondly, I realised that the ethos of football and of those who are at the vanguard of this sport, share the same value as us — humble translators. “Behind every kick of the ball there has to be a thought” says legendary Dutch footballer Dennis Bergkamp. I would easily replace the “kick” with the “word”/”translation choice” and have it as an umbrella-slogan for our profession. And here is my favourite quote by the “Captain America” Roger Staubach: “Confidence doesn’t come out of nowhere… It is a result of something… hours and days and weeks and years of constant work and dedication.” The translator — being a cultural and communicational bridge — must be firm and confident. Those who cross bridges put all their trust into the bridge while crossing hazardous streams of cultural and linguistic gaps. Without dedication, hard work, knowledge and continuous learning, self-assessment and re-assessment we cannot build those solid bridges that rest on our confidence and provide a reliable link between the cultures and languages. It is the quest for quality and perfection – as well as love for the colourful and precise language – that unites two such unlikely worlds: translation and football.
Thirdly, it is all about the powerful “football fever” that brings communities together, that unites and divides, that tests the boundaries of the languages exploring new metaphors and idioms. It also tests the expertise of the translators. The passion that unites all football fans is something that brings forward colours of life and of the language. Language without emotions, without passion is a dead language. I would like to celebrate the ecstatic power of “language fever”, the passion of words and of the feelings behind those words. I would like us, translators, never to forget the living and volatile nature of those lexical units that make up our bread and butter, our inspiration, aspiration and our world. I would like to draw attention to the importance of catching the fever of football in linguistics!
Copyright ©Liudmila Tomanek 2018