First of all I had to sit a wee test to make sure I could translate football parlance from French into English. I seem to remember that there were some really tricky terms such as "le football", "dribbler", "le goal", "les supporters", and "une pénaltie" but I came with the goods and they gave me the job. It then turned out that my post didn’t involve any actual translating, I was, in fact, to be paid quite handsomely for simply checking the translations of volunteer workers before they were published on the internet. (Did you know that the World Cup functions with people who aren't actually paid anything while the big wigs rake it in?)
I got off to a bit of a bad start during the training day. We learned that the volunteer translators were going to be translating short articles written by volunteer reporters. These novice reporters would get their material by going out to the training grounds in the morning, observing the training sessions and trying to elicit some pithy remarks from the players.
It suddenly dawned on me that we were expected to translate quotes that had already been translated from English into French back into English. So I raised the question of about how we would get access to the original quotes, otherwise, I argued, it was going to be more like Chinese whispers than journalism.
Head of Press Office (or Pompous Incompetent Git, hereafter PIG) : You won’t have access to the original quotes, the volunter reporters will have taken notes in French.
Me : But do they speak any language other than French ?
The volunteer reporters all suddenly find the floor fascinating.
PIG : They get by.
Me : So if a player gives them a soundbite, they’ll quickly write whatever they think they understood down in French, and then include it in their report.
PIG : Yes
Me [jaw dropping] : but then when we translate anything in the quotation words back into English we won’t be using the original words.
PIG : You don’t really believe [drip of sarcasm falls to floor] that everything you read between inverted commas in the newspapers [sneer] is an actual word-for-word quote do you [lip curls]?
Me : Er, y…es.
Press room full of volunteer reporters sniggers.
Although I worked with PIG for the next month, that was the last time I ever spoke to him and I simply made sure that any direct speech in the translations I checked was systematically changed to reported speech.