Saturday, July 14, 2007

Say what?!

Asian Cup.
If there's anything more bewildering than the roads in Hanoi, it's the Asian Cup press conferences.

We've got Arabic, Japanese and Vietnamese teams in Group B, with French, Austrian and Bosnian managers, and a football confederation determined to filter everything through the lips of an English speaker (and more often than not one with only a rudimentary knowledge of the language).
The result has been an unmitigated disaster.

Questions and answers get so lost in translation it's hard to discern where one train of thought starts and another ends. It's a mish-mash of nonsense that takes all the king's horses and all the king's men just to make it intelligible again.
You know things are fairly fubar when Frenchman Bruno Metsu resorts to speaking English during a press conference.

The UAE manager with the Robert Plant coiffure is notorious for eschewing the international language whenever possible, famously refusing to speak it during one press conference at the 2002 World Cup. But Metsu has been so appalled by the poor interpreting at the Asian Cup that he's taken to interrupting translations mid-sentence and doing it himself.

Following the UAE's 3-1 loss to Japan on Friday night, Metsu was flanked by no fewer than three interpreters--one to translate French-Vietnamese, one for Arabic-English and one for English-Vietnamese.

Metsu, who speaks English well despite himself, lasted about two minutes before he started shaking his head and rolling his eyes when the end product was finally delivered.

And when his French-Vietnamese conduit asked him to repeat an answer, Metsu steadfastly refused. "It's your job to pay attention," said Metsu in French, arms crossed defiantly.

After that, Metsu made all three translators obsolete by conducting the rest of the proceedings in English.

Things haven't been any better in the Japan camp. Bosnian manager Ivica Osim's interpreter, Zen Chida, was pressed into providing English translations earlier in the tournament despite only being proficient in Serbian and Japanese. Most questions had to be repeated two or three times until he understood them, and the answers were either unintelligible or completely off topic.

He knew he was crashing and burning. So did Osim. So did the rest of us. So when Osim flew into a rage at his players after a 1-1 draw with Qatar on Monday, the pressure was all too much for Chida, who broke down in tears while attempting to translate the coach's wrath to the players.

The AFC wisely wheeled in a replacement for Chida to handle the English during all subsequent press conferences. Unwisely, they chose someone who seems to have no knowledge of football and is incapable of translating any more than 25 percent of what's being said.

Thank you very little.

The substitute interpreter was so bad during a media gathering on Thursday that both Chida and Osim started speaking in English to get their points across.
I’d send a letter complaining about all this to the AFC, but I’m certain it too would get lost in translation.

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