Languages of the Olympics

Posted on 01 Sep 2016

Languages of the Olympics

If you, like the team at Intonation, were sat glued to the many Olympic events in Rio, you may have wondered why the announcements were in French, English and Portuguese, regardless of the nationalities of the medal winners.

The history

The answer is simply that French and English are the official languages of the Olympic Games and the third official language is that of the host country. This is different in the Paralympics, where the languages you will hear in the Games are English and Portuguese; Brazil being the host nation.

Where the modern Olympic Games were the brainchild of Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Courbertin, in 1896 and have always had French as one of the official languages, the Paralympics have their origins in the post-war ‘wheelchair’ or ‘Stoke Mandeville Games’ in the United Kingdom. This, together with the fact that many competing nations also speak English meant that English became the official language of the Paralympics. The host country language is the second official Paralympic language used.

Servicing the event

With over 150 countries expected to compete in the Paralympics Games, a host of translation and interpretation services are required to service the thousands of competing athletes as well as the judges, sponsors, media, merchandisers and the many visitors, who accompany the athletes or just come to see another amazing sports event. Companies, such as Intonation, who offer reliable, extensive translation services find themselves very much in demand during the ‘Olympic and Paralympic season’. Specialist services such as translation from language to language using braille or audio translation services are particularly valued at the Paralympics.

The Future                                                                                                                                

Currently, there is no reason to think the official languages will change, whether for the summer, winter or Paralympics events, so if you are exploring opportunities in Pyeong Chang (Winter Olympics 2018) or want to do business with Japan, (Summer and Paralympics Olympics 2020), start planning now and get your professional language and translation skills honed, ready for the next Olympiad.

If you want to gain finesse in French, kick off your Korean or perfect your Portuguese you may want to find out more about professional languages courses, such as those run by our sister company, Language Studies International.

If its professional translation services you need, then contact Intonation today on 01329 828438 or email and we’ll help you get your business communication ready, to gold medal standard, of course.


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