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Sports terminology: how specialised translation bridges cultural gaps

specialised translation

With the 2024 sporting summer in full swing, all eyes are on Switzerland’s performance in the UEFA Euro 2024 and the Summer Olympics in Paris. Being home to numerous international sporting headquarters like FIFA, UEFA, the International Olympic Committee, and FIS, Switzerland is at the heart of global sports culture. At SwissGlobal, we eagerly support our national teams and celebrate the global unity that sports bring.

This blog will explore how specialised translation services, whether human or machine, are crucial in recognising and adapting to cultural differences in sporting terminology, ensuring clear and effective communication. Understanding these nuances is essential for building international unity in sports and why using SwissGlobal’s expertise is the best choice.

What is specialised translation?

Specialised translation is a professional and accurate solution tailored to the unique language and terminology of various sectors.

At SwissGlobal, our team of qualified translators possesses the necessary expertise to handle specialised texts across diverse industries, from finance and legal to healthcare and luxury goods. This expertise is also crucial in sports terminology, where cultural nuances can vary significantly, even in similar sports. That is why we also provide terminology management.

Exploring cultural differences in English sports terminology

Even though English is widely spoken internationally, its usage can vary significantly from one country to another. One of the most notable differences is between UK and US English, particularly in sports terminology. This variation makes localisation crucial, ensuring that translations are accurate and culturally relevant. Have a look at the table below:

Sports termsDefinitionCountriesAlternatives
FootballA game played by two teams of eleven players with a round ball.Europe, South AmericaSoccer (USA, Canada, SA)
American FootballA sport played by two teams of eleven players with an oval ball.USAFootball
RugbyA match played by two teams of fifteen players with an oval ball; allows for contested scrums.Europe, SA, Aus, NZRugby Union, rugby football
FootyIt can refer to football, Aussie Rules, or casual street soccer.Various regionsFootball, soccer
Football pitchA playing field for football.UKSoccer field (USA, SA)

Other sporting terms in need of cultural context

 Understanding the cultural context in sporting terminology is essential for effective communication, especially in sports with intricate rules and specialised vocabulary.

Cricket, for instance, has unique jargon that can bewilder those unfamiliar with the game. Terms like “LBW” (leg before wicket), “duck” (out for zero), and “yorker” (pitched-up delivery) may sound foreign to novices. This complexity often sees former players transitioning to commentators, as their firsthand experience makes it easier to articulate the game’s nuances.

Tennis, though seemingly straightforward in its equipment and rules, also presents a linguistic challenge with terms like “love” for zero points and “deuce” for a tied score. These terms can perplex newcomers, and the subtle distinctions between “advantage in” and “advantage out” add another layer of complexity. The specific language of tennis highlights the importance of understanding context to avoid confusion and ensure clarity.

Motorsport enthusiasts use a distinctive set of terms such as “understeer,” “oversteer,” and “grid penalties,” which are further complicated by regional variations. For example, “racing slicks” in the United States are known as “slick tyres” in the United Kingdom. This regional terminology variation underscores the need for precise and culturally aware translation to maintain accurate and effective communication within the sport.

Golf, rich in tradition and precision, features unique terms like “birdie,” “eagle,” and “albatross,” which might suggest bird-watching to the uninitiated. Similarly, “bogey” and “bunker” can be confusing. Despite this, golf terminology has found its way into everyday language. Phrases such as “hole in one” signify effortless success, while “par for the course” describes something typical or expected. This seamless integration into common parlance illustrates the necessity of understanding and accurately translating these terms in their proper cultural context.

The power of sports terminology in everyday conversation

The English language consists of various sporting idioms that capture the essence of strategy, competition, and resilience and seamlessly integrate into our daily conversations. For example, “beat to the punch” means outpacing someone, “behind the eight-ball” indicates a tough spot, and “dark horse” represents an unexpected competitor who succeeds.

Many of these idioms are unique to a specific language or culture. As such, they might be unavailable in another language, requiring translators to find suitable alternative equivalents.

For instance, “curveball,” a baseball term which also describes a surprising or unexpected event, is “eine unerwartete Wendung,” in German, which means “an unexpected turn.”

Another example is “down to the wire,” meaning something that’s decided at the last possible moment, which translates to “auf den letzten Drücker,” in German, meaning “at the last push.”

Bridging cultural gaps with SwissGlobal

Understanding sporting terminology and its variants across cultures and continents enriches our daily conversations and improves global communication. Recognising and translating these cultural nuances accurately is where SwissGlobal excels.

Whether you’re a football fan or a journalist navigating the complexities of sports jargon, SwissGlobal’s specialised translation services and terminology management ensure effective international communication. Contact us today for all your specialised translation needs.