Nike Selects Trusted Translations to Interpret for Neymar, Jr.



Consecutive interpreting can be a challenging task in almost every environment. Now, take two of the biggest names in sports — Nike and Neymar Jr. — and add an army of fans, a sizable entourage, film crews and a dash of flying soccer balls to the mix. This was Trusted Translations’ latest assignment in Los Angeles, California, for Nike and soccer superstar Neymar Jr.

Interpreting for the Elite

For the few of you who don’t know, Neymar is considered by most experts to be one of the top three Soccer players in the world. He is expected to be one of the stand-outs at the next World Cup in Russia and is the heart of the Brazilian National Soccer team, a serious contender for the World Cup title. Neymar is also an important face for Nike globally, so Trusted Translations understood fully the responsibility accompanying this assignment.

While Trusted Translations is no stranger to interpretations and translations for high profile individuals, including several Presidents of the United States, this was different. It was for one of the best soccer players currently and — arguably— one of the best players ever. While gaining popularity in the U.S., soccer is clearly Earth’s favorite sport and soccer stars are better known globally than any other type of celebrity.

Trusted Translations’ Assignment for Nike

Officially on assignment for Nike, Trusted Translations’ was tasked to staff one its 10,000 professional interpreters to interpret/translate Brazilian-Portuguese and English for Neymar personally. The project involved magazine interviews, video programs (including on-camera appearances), appearances at youth soccer camps and various photo shoots.

Normally, we would begin our selection process by analyzing our roster of interpreters in the area and choose one with proven and extensive consecutive interpreting experience. However, in this case, the selection process was more complex.

First, we looked for a professional, native Brazilian-Portuguese interpreter who was raised in Brazil. Thankfully, finding a pool to choose from was not a challenging task in Los Angeles as there is a large Brazilian population in the area. Given that Neymar is from the outskirts of Sao Paulo, we did prefer an interpreter from the south of Brazil to ensure we could accurately interpret words particular to that region. It is common to find that the language spoken in one region is very different from what is spoken in a different region of the same country. As the assignment involved very high-profile and in-depth interviews, having an interpreter from Neymar’s region would help ensure we picked up on every nuance of Neymar’s responses.

Additionally, because the interpreter could be asked to be on-camera with Neymar, we wanted to have someone relatively young and athletic— to better represent the Nike brand.

Selecting the Right Interpreter for Neymar

After an extensive search and screening process, we found one of our most trusted interpreters in Los Angeles and staffed him for three days. The interpreter is from the south of Brazil, a highly experienced professional interpreter and—of course—a true Brazilian soccer fan. Furthermore, he is also fluent in Spanish, which was important because we wanted to ensure we could accommodate any Spanish media outlets or other Spanish interpretations that could come up. Finally, he was a champion in his own right with several Judo titles to his name.

I decided to oversee the assignment personally, to ensure the interpreter was the right fit and the chemistry with Neymar was there. We made sure we had several backup interpreters on the bench just in case it was necessary to make a last-minute substitution. Fortunately, our first selection was the right one and a great fit for this assignment.

The Assignment Ended at Jimmy Kimmel Live!

To say the least, Nike was extremely professional and Neymar was a sincere pleasure to work with on assignment. I was most impressed, however not surprised, by how attentive and responsive Neymar was toward the kids who approached him for pictures and autographs. He took the time to play soccer with them, posed for silly selfies, and signed as many autographs as humanly possible.

The assignment ended at Jimmy Kimmel Live! where Neymar was challenged to kick a soccer ball from the roof of a building over Hollywood Boulevard, into a soccer goal on another roof guarded by Jimmy Kimmel’s own Guillermo Rodriguez. On the third try, Neymar’s shot not only cleared Hollywood Boulevard but made it past Kimmel’s well-intentioned goalie and into the corner of the net. Truly amazing.

Language in Sports: Communication in European Football

Football (or soccer, as it’s known to North Americans) is the world’s most popular sport. In all corners of the globe, one can find football being played. It’s only natural, then, that at its highest club level ﹘ the domestic and continental competitions of Europe ﹘ there are players from a vast number of different nationalities and cultures. And with many nationalities and cultures, of course, come many languages.

The most prestigious club competition in the world is the UEFA Champions League, in which the best clubs from around the continent compete to be crowned champions of Europe. Last Saturday, the Champions League Final was held in Cardiff, Wales, between Spanish side Real Madrid, and the “Vecchia Signora,” Juventus, from Turin, Italy. The starting XI for Real Madrid consisted of three Spaniards, two French players, two Brazilians, one Portuguese, one German, one Croatian, and one Costa Rican; in the Juventus starting XI were four Italians, two Argentines, two Brazilians, one German, one Croatian, and one Bosnian. So, how do the players and coaches on highly international teams like these communicate with one another? In what language do they communicate?

The answer, by all accounts, is that it depends on the team, and the players on it. For the majority of teams, the main language spoken is that of the region where the team is located. However, in many cases where teammates come from all over the world, English is the only language they have in common, and is therefore the main language used for communication. The Italian film director, writer and activist Pier Paolo Pasolini also wrote a famous article in 1971 in which he theorized that football itself is a language, which does not necessarily have to be written or spoken, but can be understood and used for communication nonetheless.

Of course, players and coaches coming from abroad often make strong efforts to learn the language of their new club’s country or region. Language classes and interpretingboth play an important role here. Two of the most famous recent examples involve the high-profile managers Mauricio Pochettino and Pep Guardiola. When Argentine manager Mauricio Pochettino first arrived in England as manager of Southampton, he conducted his interviews through a Spanish-English interpreter; however, during this time he was simultaneously studying to improve his English, and he now conducts all of his interviews in English on his own. And after accepting the managerial job with Bayern München of Germany, the Catalan Pep Guardiola worked vigorously to learn German before the start of the upcoming season, studying for multiple hours per day with a personal language tutor.

The language barrier in European football can appear as an insurmountable obstacle, but through the efforts of players and managers, this obstacle can be overcome. The secret to success lies in something world-class athletes are very familiar with: hard work and persistent training.

I Speak English, Therefore I’m American

What makes you feel truly American? A study was conducted last year by the Pew Research Center, which found that most people in the U.S. believe that in order to be considered American, it was very important that people spoke English. The study was conducted over different groups of people distributed by age, race, religious beliefs and the results were close among those interviewed, regardless of the group they belong to. When we think about what makes us feel part of a community, even if we consider ourselves a nation, no matter what nation this may be, people can choose from the more cultural and fundamental aspects of their national identity, but the most fundamental aspect of all (at least to Americans) is language. One thing Americans truly have in common is language. The U.S. can be divided into different nations; all with their own ways, mindset, laws and behavior, but ultimately, they all speak English.

It is almost impossible not to think about how intertwined cultural aspects, mindsets and language are. This topic has been reviewed before, whether we behave (as a community) in certain way due to the way we speak, or is it the other way around? Does culture reflect language or is it the opposite? Could it be said then that a person who has never lived in the U.S., but has mastered the English language to a point where (if they are really intertwined) the person can understand even the most intrinsic aspects of American culture and mindset? Some would say yes, that in order to truly learn and master a language, a person has to be aware and internalize the cultural aspects that make native speakers say things the way they do and understand what’s behind the pure meaning of a word.

So, is the foreigner who learned English as a second language outside the U.S. as, or even more, American (it is likely that this person has better grammar than most native English speakers) than someone who was born and raised in the U.S.? If language is what holds a nation together, as the study showed, then yes. This statement is obviously overreaching, there are other aspects in play when it comes to feeling and being part of a nation (political views, religion, education, etc.), but it is interesting to think about how powerful language is, even more than religious views, as the study concluded.

The Pew Study was also conducted collecting data from different countries in Europe and Asia, varying in results. To learn more about this topic, you can visit the Pew Research Center’s site and find the complete study.

Prima-Lingua: The power within words

Following up on our latest article, I would like to ponder further on the idea of thinking about linguists as if they were poets, storytellers or even artificers of some sort, given the intricate nature of their craft.

The so called wordsmith, as we’ve mentioned before, is someone so skilled in the art of manipulating language that they could almost reshape the fabric of reality itself. Something along the lines of the mythical caste once known as the silver-tongues: Mystical narrators who could allegedly draw power from their words to affect time and space.

If we go back through time we can easily spot a few mythical or historical figures who could easily fit the role of these “supernatural speakers”. Think of Socrates, Homer, Diogenes, or even the fabled Daedalus.

For Socrates, text was nothing but deceased words on a parchment. Nothing but an empty vessel which has already lost its primal spark.

On the other hand, Daedalus, according to some poets of old, spoke of his curious inventions out loud before bringing them into existence. No sketches or blueprints involved. He just conjured them out of pure rhetoric and mindfulness, borrowing power from his own words.

To think language could lend us such power is mind-blowing to say the least.

Picking up once again on Galileo’s thoughts about the mystery of language and its role in the universe, without which we would “wander in that dark labyrinth” stumbling aimlessly without much sense of purpose or direction, the idea of the maze fits our purpose like a glove.

Daedalus, it seems, in his role of the linguist-artificer, a true wordsmith, could solve the enigma of the inescapable metaphor of miscommunication that is his own labyrinth. Once he is able to flee the maze by conjuring a very poetic set of wings for him and his young son Icarus, he immediately suffers the curse of his own blessing by losing his son as he tragically falls into the sea beneath them, just as he anticipated it would happen.

For these silver-tongued paladins, alchemists even, it is their own voice that seems to empower the magic behind their powerful thoughts. What every modern aspiring writer struggles to find these days in order to define themselves and their craft: To find their own voice.  A quest that has to do with discovering our very essence, who we are, and how we chose to approach the boisterous havoc that is the world we inhabit.

It’s the very reason why Plato wrote dialogs to record his teacher’s ideas, trying to emulate a living conversation to the best of his abilities in an attempt to preserve its sacred spark.

Don’t get me wrong. Written word has brought us a long way as far as civilization goes, but it has also taken us as farther away from what’s most essential: That living spark these artificers protect so boldly. A unique light that shines within each of us with our own personal glow.

We need to go back to basics. Back to Babel. To babble in tongues, ‘til we reach the pure essence of it all, and we are ready, once more, to tumble down the ivory towers that have isolated us for so long. To bring the power back to the words. To bring the power back to the people.