In the spirit of the game, it matters not if you win or lose but how you play and translate your language! In the recent past, thanks to faulty translations and interpretations, quotes from foreign baseball players and local coaches have been misconstrued to humorous effect and in some cases, with a jab of sarcasm. Take for example the case of a former Lotte batter, asking interpreter Toyo Kunimitsu for his batting tee, to which Kunimitsu politely enquired if the player wanted the ‘tea’ with lemon and sugar! At times the lack of linguistic skills have had serious side effects, until the air was cleared to remedy the lack of understanding.
Best-selling author and Japanese baseball historian Robert Whiting recounts the case where former Taiyo Whales interpreter Tadahiro Ushigome translated ‘gambatte’ as ‘do your best’ and this ended up offending the American players. In a way the translation insinuated that the Americans were not putting in their best and needed to step up the game. However the tension was diffused when Ushigome reworded the phrase to ‘good luck’.
In the lighter side of the sport, when Clyde Wright pitched an extra inning and was later interviewed about his game, he said in his typical humor that he didn’t care who won or lost, and was pretty tired and glad to go home. His interpreter, Ichi Tanuma, cleverly translated this to – Wright did his best for his fans and wanted to win the game for them, the teammates and the manager. So it really depends upon how the humor is presented to the Japanese press. It boils down to two things, difference in sense of humor and sarcastic elements. Two things that are difficult to interpret and if not translated accurately, can snowball into a huge battle of words and misunderstandings. If you’ve had similar bloopers, we’d love to hear from you!