Inclusion Through Translation

by Anne Middleton, on December 4th, 2015

The world is shrinking.  Not literally, of course, but international borders are becoming blurred as information is shared and technology evolves.

For example, the University of Illinois now broadcasts its Fighting Illini college football games in Mandarin, the most widely used language in China.  And when examining the student body demographics, this comes as no surprise.

• Over 4,500 students from China attend the University of Illinois
• They are the largest group of international students on this campus
• The number of Chinese students attending Illinois has increased from 850 students in the fall of 2005 to more than five times that number this year

Although very (very) few Chinese-born individuals are familiar with American football, by listening to the games in their native language, they quickly experience the enthusiasm for the sport.  After tuning into the play-by-play, they find themselves purchasing tickets and joining their fellow students in the stands at the stadium.

The games are broadcasted online through a free audio link on the team's website and a mobile app. This also allows the Chinese students to listen to the transmission while sitting in the arena with other co-ed fans.

Broadcasting football games in Chinese is the latest effort in a series of moves by the college to better connect with their international students on campus. The broadcasts are led by David He, a sophomore majoring in Recreation, Sport and Tourism whose excitement is contagious as he calls out the plays. David is joined by Bruce Lu.

To help teach their audience about football, they take questions from Chinese fans during the broadcast and answer them on air. Although the translation is rough at times (there is no word in Mandarin for “quarterback”), the passion in their voices keeps their new followers interested.

The popularity of these foreign language broadcasts is a clear sign that international students desire to participate in campus and American culture. Although there are only a couple of football games left, the University hopes to expand these unique broadcasts to volleyball and basketball. That should be much easier since people in China already understand these sports.

The translation program at the University of Illinois is serving as a model for other educational institutions nationwide. The University of Dayton Athletics has announced that they will broadcast their men's basketball games in Mandarin Chinese.

As schools and universities nationwide recognize the potential of involving students from abroad in their athletic program, it is only natural to believe announcer careers in other languages will explode. currently lists over 1000 jobs for translators.  Interpretation into other languages is not limited to sports or educational establishments.  Banks, healthcare, governments, manufacturing, packaging…the need to disseminate information in multiple languages is exploding.  If you are fluent in speaking multiple languages, log onto for almost endless opportunities.