ATISDA Blog (Association of Translators and Interpreters in the San Diego Area)

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Guest Blog: Interpreting at the 2017 World Baseball Classic

Our ATISDA members have unique interpreting and translating assignments that take them to interesting places. Conference interpreter and ATISDA member Carmen Chávez recently had the exciting opportunity to interpret at the World Baseball Classic in San Diego.

Carmen in booth

Carmen Chávez at work in the interpretation booth for the World Baseball Classic

About her experience interpreting at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Carmen writes:


When interpreting takes you to places you never dreamed of, you know that your hard work, persistence, perfectionism, and passion for this art is definitely your calling.

I relocated to the San Diego-Tijuana area 13 years ago with the major task of caring for my ageing mother whose health had quickly declined and required my physical presence to create a stable environment for her. The “professional interpreting” journey has been long and quite challenging, since interpreting became a new career that literally transformed my life and changed my personal perception of the world. I relocated from New York, and my go-get-them mentality was extremely helpful, or so I thought. I soon discovered that my approach was not well received by many California colleagues: I was too aggressive (I spoke my mind); I was too pushy (I am an assertive woman); I was a “know-it-all” (I love to read and my grey hairs have earned me a wealth of experience)!

Why am I emphasizing this before I even begin to discuss my experience at the 2017 World Baseball Classic? Because belief in yourself and a profound love for this incredible profession are key! In addition, we must all strive to achieve balance and equanimity in our personal lives to be successful. Yes, I know this sounds very New Agey; you might even be turned off by these far-fetched yogi suggestions; however, when you prioritize family, work, laughter, travel, and all the wonders that life offers us every single day, the opportunities will flow in surprising ways.

I believe our constant networking, personal conversations, and our support of one another in this highly competitive field is how we value each other and our profession. We take the time to get to know each other personally and professionally. That may entail a phone conversation, working on an assignment with a colleague you admire and respect, networking dinners together, ATISDA meetings, seminars and/or conferences. The point is that you are somehow engaged in this profession through your efforts to consistently learn, increase your knowledge, and remain current on the latest trends in the field.

I happened to be recommended by an outstanding conference interpreter and a highly respected colleague. I had never delved into sports media interpreting before and was a bit doubtful of my baseball learning curve. I had plenty of time to prepare for this opportunity and accepted the challenge.

I was contracted to interpret for the pre- and post-game press conferences for the 2017 World Baseball Classic. This is a huge deal since this event is held every four years by Major League Baseball. Games are simultaneously held at different venues throughout the United States and select international countries to determine which teams will play the final championship round. I had the pleasure of interpreting for the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Petco Park in San Diego, California. The teams that made it to San Diego were Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.


Flags from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic on the field

I prepared for this assignment by thoroughly researching baseball terminology with glossaries from Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. This proved to be a challenge, as most Latin American countries are baseball aficionados and have their own terminology, e.g., a ground ball is referred to as rola, roletazo, rodado (Mexico); roleta, roletín (Puerto Rico); rollin (Dominican Republic); rolín (Venezuela), with an even greater array of terminology that is accepted in English in this team sport, as well. Clearly, my dilemma sent me into a tailspin, and I stuck to universal baseball terminology presented by CNN Deportes en Español.

I watched the series of the 2013 World Baseball Classic games on YouTube and was able to watch the 2017 World Baseball Classic games that were being aired from across the globe as well. This gave me an edge by keeping up with teams that were being eliminated at the time. It is very important to keep up with the latest changes as they happen.

I was very fortunate to have a booth that provided me with the optimal conditions to concentrate and render simultaneous interpretations during the press conferences. The press conferences were attended by the international sports press corps and our very own local media luminaries from Telemundo, Televisa, and Univisión. Usually, the team coach was accompanied by two or three players that would engage with the press corps; these would sometimes become lively and I had to convey the emotions as expressed by the speaker. Each press conference did not go over 15 minutes, while players would often code-switch (speaking Spanish and then switching to English). This required that I switch frequencies with my interpreting equipment at that precise moment. Once the interpretation was rendered, I had to immediately switch the equipment frequency back to the target language.


Carmen Chávez at work using interpreting equipment in the booth

Players interview panel

Players’ panel

What I truly enjoyed about this opportunity was working with an exceptional team of professional event organizers, technicians, transcriptionists, and representatives of the Major League Baseball staff. When you have the good fortune of working at an event where the organizers “get it” and understand the importance of your role, they will provide you with the needed tools of the trade.

Clearly, it goes without saying that the added plus was having complete access to watch the games from the press box and watching teams warm up from the bullpen. It was absolutely thrilling to watch how fans from Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the United States rooted for their teams. What a rush!! Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I would be interpreting at the World Baseball Classic for Major League Baseball. My journey has just begun.


Baseball fans in the stadium


Carmen Chavez

Carmen Chávez

Carmen Chávez is a conference interpreter with a wealth of experience working binational events in the United States and Mexico. Her areas of expertise are the environment, homeland security, immigration, health, and human and drug trafficking, as well as others. She is currently working on passing the oral exam for her federal court interpreter certification.


Cover image: Petco Park, San Diego

All other images: Courtesy of Carmen Chávez