Translating Sage Kotsenburg

US snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg walked away with a gold medal in the Olympic slopestyle competition over the weekend. His big win was naturally enough followed by press conferences and interviews…during which he left a trail of confused interpreters in his wake.

The problem for interpreters was two-fold- specialized snowboarding jargon and snowboarder slang, much of which would not sound out of place on an old episode of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

The technical lingo includes phrases like “cab double cork 1260 holy crail, frontside 1080 off the toes rocket air and 1620 Japan,”  all of which needed to be translated to 7 different languages for reporters from different  countries. Say what now?

Al-Jazeera America interviewed two Russian interpreters, Andrey Lesokhin and  Oxana Yakimenko,  to find out how they handled the situation.  

 “I didn’t really think he’d go that technical,” said Andrey Lesokhin…“But this was not the most complicated (thing),” Lesokhin’s fellow interpreter Oxana Yakimenko added. “In Russian, a ‘grab’ is a ‘grab,’ ‘cab’ is like ‘cab,’ and even though there’s a Russian word for ‘rail,’ we say, ‘rail.’ But ’jump’ is ‘tramplin,’ and a ‘spin’ is ‘vraschenije,’ and ‘flip’ is ‘salto.’”

It was the slang, words like “stoked” and “sick,” that really threw them for a loop, according to Al Jazeera.  According to Yakimenko, here’s how they translated “stoked:”

Yakimenko admitted, “We used the word for ‘under the influence of alcohol,’ which is kind of like ‘under the fly.’”

“Sick” presented its own difficulties:

The Russian word for sick, “bolnoy,” Yakimenko said, “is bad, like you have a disease or something.” But there are plenty of Russian words for “crazy,” so the duo substituted “bezumny,” “kruto” or “sumasshedshy.”

Not surprising, considering that according to the WSJ, even English-speaking reporters had trouble with the word “stoked” and that “sick” became “slick” on at least one English transcript, according to the AP.

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