The Jakarta Post
When first registering to be a Japanese interpreter at the Asian Para Games, Purwiyanti, 29, thought her job would focus on helping athletes communicate with journalists at event venues.
The South Jakarta resident, who is an experienced Japanese interpreter, did not expect that the job would require not only her language skills, but also her physical strength.
Assigned as the interpreter for the Japanese lawn bowls team, Purwiyanti was required to be on standby from early morning until the evening, when the team had finished for the day. She had to put up with the scorching sun in the afternoon and the chilly wind in the evening at the Hockey Field in Gelora Bung Karno sports complex in Senayan, Central Jakarta, where the competitions were held.
Despite this, Purwiyanti said she was grateful to be an interpreter as she learned a lot about lawn bowls, Japanese fighting spirit, as well as friendship.
Besides serving journalists who wanted to interview Japan’s lawn bowls team, Purwiyanti also helped the team communicate with the umpires regarding the rules of the game.
Usually, the Japanese team hired their own interpreter to communicate with the game officials, but for this event, the team could not get one.
Even though bridging the communication barrier between the athletes and umpires was actually not part of her duties, Purwanti said she did it happily.
She did not mind pushing the athletes’ wheelchairs when needed.
The challenge she faced in interpreting Indonesian to Japanese was that lawn bowls has specific terms that were hard to translate.
“As lawn bowls is a lesser known game, it was quite hard to find information about the rules of the game and its terms. Luckily, some terms are in English and they are already understood by the athletes,” Purwiyanti told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Being an interpreter was not always about work, but also friendship.
As the team could not speak English, it might be hard for them to communicate with other teams and officials.
Therefore, Purwiyanti often chatted with the team, which consisted of three athletes aged over 66 years, to make them feel at home.
She said being an interpreter at the Para Games had given her valuable experience.
“The athletes I serve always have great fighting spirit. They never complained about a thing.” Purwiyanti added.
Nur Moh. Faiz Amin, an interpreter for Arabic athletes, echoed the same experience. Helping the Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia teams talk to umpires and journalists had given him an unforgettable experience.
Throughout the Para Games, Nur had served athletes competing in para swimming, lawn bowls, goalball and wheelchair basketball. His hospitality had resulted in warm friendship.
“Once, the Iraq athletes asked me to hang out with them in Ancol and Mangga Dua [in North Jakarta]. They really wanted to explore Jakarta. Unfortunately, my schedule was tight,” Nur said.
To be an interpreter, Nur has to stay in his friend’s house in Jakarta and leave his pregnant wife in Cirebon, West Java.
However, he realized it was worth it as the athletes had taught him lessons about mental strength and confidence, he said.
Not wanting a repeat of the “lost in translation” phenomenon that happened at the 18th Asian Games — when journalists and athletes sometimes could not communicate well due to a lack of interpreters — the Indonesian Asian Para Games Organizing Committee (INAPGOC) deployed interpreters at all venues.
English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Arabic interpreters are deployed at each venue.