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For Help on Camera and Off, MLB Orders Interpreters for Latino Players


Jan 15, 2016 / by Katharine Allen & Barry S. Olsen


From The New York Times...


Article excerpt: In April 2014, Michael Pineda, the Yankees pitcher, had been ejected from a game for having pine tar on his neck. Later the same night, he answered questions from more than a dozen reporters in English about the embarrassing incident.


Pineda, who is from the Dominican Republic, had only a rudimentary command of English, but in an effort to learn the language, he regularly conversed with reporters who spoke it.


Nevertheless, Carlos Beltran, a bilingual teammate, was upset that Pineda did not have an interpreter to help him communicate that night, and Pineda was roundly pilloried in the media afterward for using pine tar for a second time.

That incident was the inspiration for a new initiative, pushed by Beltran, to have each of the 30 teams provide a full-time interpreter for Spanish-speaking players.


Link to full article here.


InterpretAmerica's take: Many of you have already pushed out this news on social media platforms. It's gratifying when the broader public stands up and takes note of our profession, especially when it's positive news. It's not often that an interpreting-related story gets such wide coverage, and even less common to have it linked to something so "apple pie" American as Major League Baseball (MLB).This story has so far been covered by such major news media outlets as The New York Times (referenced here), CBS Sports, The Washington Post, SB Nation, USA Today and FOX News Nation


This story catches our attention because it highlights the need for professional interpreters in an arena we don't often think of as a hotspot for language access issues. Outside of soccer's FIFA and the Olympics, both highly international events, sports teams play on local and national levels, not across borders. Baseball, however, has long recruited from Latin American and Asian countries and the need to overcome language barriers for these players has festered for many years. Where Asian players have often been provided with full-time (if not always professionally trained) interpreters, Latinos typically have not. This requirement evens out that imbalance and explicitly acknowledges that it is not enough to lean on "bilingual" players and coaches to provide full and equal access to life inside the locker room and during press interviews and other public events. It indicates a growing public awareness that "getting by" should not be the status quo approach to language access, in any area.


In addition, maybe we can rack this up as a "small victory," but it's significant that every major news story got the terminology right, using the term "interpreter" and not "translator." Perhaps this represents individual learning curves by major news organizations to get this lexicon right. Perhaps it's also a reflection of persistent big and small efforts by individual interpreters and professional associations to get this message across. 


Finally, we celebrate this development for getting our work out to the broader public in an arena that has nothing to do with politics, conflict, or life and death medical and legal decisions. Don't get us wrong, ongoing awareness-raising in those areas is and will continue to be critical to our profession and the communication barriers we help overcome.


Nevertheless, seeing the need for interpreters in the sports arena celebrates the growing diversity of our nation, of our national past time, and shows a respect and consideration for the individual ball players in tending to the most basic of workplace needs: understanding what is going on around you. We hope this is a harbinger of similar stories to come. 

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