Language at the Olympics

Winter Olympics 2018 1200 × 750We’re well into the first week of the Olympics and so far, we’ve seen a few stumbling blocks when it comes to language, and a few interesting and fun stories!

Evolution of a language

As I mentioned in a previous blog, when a language is ‘separated’, the language changes. This was seen with the North and South Korean Hockey players. As the Korean language has been separated between north and south, the language has evolved on both sides. This meant that Northerners were struggling to understand the Southerners and vice versa. Better still, the coach was Canadian! Handy vocab lists have been made to help everyone understand each other better

Norwegian egg-catastrophe

This was in the news recently and made headlines across the world. Norwegian chefs, with the help of google translate, ordered eggs for the athletes. They meant to order 1500, but 15,000 arrived! That’s quite a big difference. Luckily the supplier could take back the un-needed eggs, but it just shows the issue with translation in the Olympics. Thankfully this was an easy mistake to be rectified, but could’ve easily have been avoided if they used a translator rather than a machine.

American dream coats

This was also in the news recently. Apparently hidden in the American coats is a help sheet of useful Korean vocab. There will be translations for temperatures (much needed in the winter games), along with translations for areas in the Olympic village and helpful questions for when you get a bit lost! The coats have been in the news for being heated with conductive ink technology, helping the athletes in the frozen village. But we think this help sheet is such an amazing idea!

The opening ceremony

Many people seemed rather confused to hear French during the opening ceremony of the Korean Winter Olympic Games. People obviously assumed there would be Korean, along with English, but wondered why there was a 3rd language. The answer is simple. The official languages of the Games is French and English. So, it doesn’t matter where the games are held, official announcements must be in these two languages, along with the language of the host country if different. You might wonder why Greek isn’t the official language, as the Olympic movement came from Greece. When Pierre de Coubertin founded the modern Olympic Games, he declared that French would be an official language, but never included Greek.

Order please!

One of the highlights of the opening ceremony is when the athletes enter the stadium. Normally Greece is the first team out in the ceremony as the Olympics came from Greece. Last in is normally the host nation. In between are all the countries in chronological order. So, you’d normally see the likes of Zimbabwe near the end of the list, something that freaked a few of us out in the Beijing Summer games in 2008 when they were near the front of the list. In these games, the countries are going out in chronological order of the Korean alphabet, Hangeul. So, Denmark followed New Zealand, Bermuda followed USA… Many people were slightly confused, anxiously waiting for their team to arrive. Hungary and Hong Kong were the last out – not normally the case!