February 01, 2004

Non-English Super Bowl broadcasts

China Daily writes about non-English Super Bowl broadcasts:

Sunday's game will be beamed to a potential audience estimated by the NFL at 1 billion in 229 countries and regions. It will be broadcast in 21 languages, including Arabic, Mandarin, Icelandic, Russian, Serbian and Thai.

Fourteen television and radio stations from 10 countries will broadcast the game on-site including, for the first time, a crew from China. Philadelphia Eagles tight end Chad Lewis, who speaks fluent Mandarin, will be the colour analyst.

"The event is one of the greatest sporting occasions in the world," Shi Zhigang, producer of China's CCTV broadcast, said in a statement released by the NFL, "and we are looking forward to capturing the drama for our viewers."

Chad Lewis' NFL page doesn't mention his Mandarin proficiency. However, this Philadelphia Daily News article indicates that he is a "former Mormon missionary to Taiwan." According to the article:

Right now, Lewis is more than a little worried. He's honored to have been chosen as one of the 47 international broadcasters for Super Bowl XXXVIII, beaming the game to 229 countries in 21 languages, but Lewis has never before done color commentary, and now he's being asked to do it in a language that is not his native tongue. There is fluent, and then there is fluent. Being able to hail a cab is a little different from going on TV and pithily explaining how the receiver found a seam in the Cover 2.

"I've never even broadcast a game in English, not even a junior-high game," Lewis said. "So to broadcast the Super Bowl in Mandarin Chinese is really something. I'm studying as much vocabulary as I can, listening to tapes, trying to get the accent right. We have a production meeting all day Friday, and I plan to go over everything really thoroughly."

We can categorically deny rumors that N'kisi the parrot will be providing Super Bowl color commentary for the BBC, who were reportedly persuaded by Geoff Pullum's arguments that parrots' inability to voice opinions would be be a problem. The BBC then tried to hire N'kisi for the play-by-play, on the grounds that 950 words and the ability to name newly-presented objects and events should be enough, especially in the U.K. market, where N'iki's demo tested well ("it's-a-blitz! he-sets-he-throws! can-I-give-you-a-hug? boom! aawk!"). However, it turns out that Fox has his rights wrapped up anyhow. Geoff's offer to do a BBC World Service Super Bowl broadcast in Parrot is still under consideration as we go to press.

Posted by Mark Liberman at February 1, 2004 03:05 PM