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Why Rio Deserves a Gold Medal for Translation

For more than two years, Rio (home of the 2016 Olympic Games), has been organizing a team of 8,000 translators to be “the voice of the Games.” With the opening ceremonies just around the corner, we wondered, what goes into preparing for such an enormous effort?

Rio de Janeiro was chosen back in 2009 to be the host of the 2016 Olympic Games. It’s the first South American city to host the Games. Bringing countries together from around the world means that audio translation becomes a huge priority. Since 2014, Rio has been recruiting volunteers who can help participate in translation work for the duration of the Games. It’s a massive endeavour, and the effort that the city has gone through to ensure that proper, qualified translators are available for the visitors and participants is admirable. With the opening ceremonies in action, here’s a breakdown of all the hard work that has led up to the 2016 Olympic Games.

‘Protocol and Languages’ Volunteers

There are several departments within the event that rely on volunteers, and for language translation, that department is called ‘Protocol and Languages’. The host city has been recruiting volunteers for this department who compose the following attributes:

• Good Communication Skills
• Fluency in Multiple Languages
• Good Interpersonal Skills
• Appropriate Behaviour
• Respect for Confidentiality

Incredibly they have recruited 8,000 linguistic specialists, who speak more than 30 languages. This is for the main event as well as the Paralympic Games, which will be held just after. These volunteers have been put through the wringer since February to ensure they are fully ready to assist the 500,000 expected attendees. They will act as interpreters, not just during the games themselves, but for visitors travelling between venues, for press conferences, and behind the scenes with the athletes. But, that’s not all that has been happening to make communication easier in Rio.

The World’s Largest Language Training Program

The team in Rio is working with the language training company, Education First to provide a 12-month online English course, complete with a standardised English test. However, this course was not meant for the Protocol and Language volunteers; they were chosen specifically for their existing language skills. Rather, the course has been offered to nearly 70,000 volunteers from other departments – from medical staff to customer service. Education First has partnered with the Olympics for many years, and proudly claims that this endeavour will be the world’s largest language training programme, upon its completion after the Games.

The Olympic Games create a wonderful opportunity to shine a spotlight on the value of audio translation services in bringing people together. Between the months of in-person training that interpreters received, and the world’s largest English language program, Rio 2016 has put every effort into creating a unifying event, free of language barriers.

Are you attending the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil? Or, have you ever been to a similar type event, where translation was so important? Let us know on social media what your experience was like.