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Twenty-four-year-old Chinese journalist Tianqi Zhang lives in Barcelona, where she arrived last season as the football correspondent for her country's information portal Tencent Sport, which periodically publishes news, analysis, interviews and reports on the Spanish First Division. Her career as a sports journalist began at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where she was in charge of covering the Argentina national team at their training site in Belo Horizonte.
Not only does she have a passion for sport, but she also has passion for football, linguistically speaking. "Since I arrived in Barcelona, I've read a lot of sports news in the Spanish press, and as an old habit, I intuitively reflect in my head as I read in both Chinese in Spanish, and I often can't translate it." So the young journalist did something about it, recently starting a blog where she shares her thoughts on the language of football in Chinese and Spanish.
"It's an idea I've been thinking about since I arrived. I wanted to share my ideas and thoughts in Spanish, even though it's not my native language, and I wanted Spanish speakers to be able to read and understand me. For work I read a lot in the Spanish press about issues in football, and there is always a certain type of language that inevitably appears in a certain context."
Driven by her curiosity of the language of football, Tianqi began to jot down what she thought were the most interesting words that appeared in Spanish news pieces. Most of those words have an equivalent in Chinese, but some have no direct translation. For Tianqi, it was those words that were the most interesting, where the differences in culture could be seen. Words reflect culture, she thought.
On her blog she highlights as an example the Spanish word 'cantera' (in English it literally means 'quarry' but in the context of sport it takes on the idea of a "pool of young players") and she shares her analysis of the Chinese equivalent. "I really like the concept of the word for its metaphorical value because you can see how it relates to a 'quarry.' But the metaphorical sense is lost in translation and we just say "players from the reserve squad."
According Tianqi, the reason she created this mini bilingual dictionary was to facilitate a deeper understanding of sports journalism both for journalists and fans of both countries.
"Today, articles in the international press can be translated instantly upon publication, but the quality can certainly be improved. Not only that, rapid translations tend to cloud the depth of meaning, which is a real shame." It is for that reason that Tianqi decided to periodically post the most interesting words and phrases taken from Spanish newspapers each day.
Double meaning, double importance
Besides her forays into sports linguistics, it goes without saying that FC Barcelona not only means a lot to her but also to the Club's throngs of Chinese fans. "All the big cities in China have an FC Barcelona supporters club meeting place, and people come from everywhere to watch ElClásico.”
"For Chinese fans, Camp Nou is sacred, and Messi is God," she said.
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