Translating Pacquiao vs. Mayweather

Before I lose you non-boxing fans, I’ll talk about how all this applies to language learning in a minute…

If you follow my Twitter feed, you probably know by now I’m a huge fan of combat sports.

See page for author [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Sculpture of Manny Pacquiao by Fred Baldemor
[CC BY 2.0], Image Source

I love watching mixed martial arts and boxing. I was the captain of my wrestling team in high school. And as an adult I’ve studied Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and kickboxing.

So considering that, and considering the fact that I’m half-Filipino, I’m really, really excited about tonight’s fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao. It’s being hailed as the fight of the century, a label given to highly anticipated fights every hundred years–or more accurately, every five years or so.


I’m driving across town to my parents’ house tonight to watch the fight, aka the Filipino Super Bowl, aka Pacquiao’s presidential campaign speech. I had even asked for time off from my work’s travel schedule to make sure I was in town.

All of this to say, this is a big deal to me.

“I thought this was a language blog.”

This morning when I got up to do my daily translation exercises, I looked up Leitartikel (editorial) in Google News. Editorials are tricky to translate. They often mix colloquial and formal speech, and you have to work to capture the tone just right.

So you can imagine how pleased I was to find a Leitartikel about the big fight called “Wie Achill gegen Hektor” (“Like Achilles versus Hector”). I read through the whole thing and chose two paragraphs to translate.

Here is the source text from Die Welt. For copyright/length reasons, I’m just including a snippet of the text I translated. You can read the rest by clicking that link…

“‘Money’ Mayweather, der als reichster Sportler der Welt gilt, soll sich mal an einem einzigen Tag 31 Limousinen bei seinem Hollywood-Dealer bestellt haben. Und dann sehen wir ihn auf den Marmorböden in seiner Villa skaten, endlose Fahrten durch endlose Zimmer, alles meins, meins, meins. Über all das hat Paquiao gelacht, er hat sich ausgeschüttet vor Lachen, denn er hat die Einsamkeit und die Verzweiflung darin gesehen: Wenn er alles gekauft hat, der Mayweather, was bleibt dann?…”

Here is the translation I came up with:

“Money” Mayweather, who is considered the richest athlete in the world, is said to have ordered 31 limousines from his Hollywood dealer on a single day. And then we see him skating on the marble floors in his villas, endless passes through endless rooms, all mine, mine, mine. Pacquiao laughed about all that. He spilled forth laughter, because he saw the loneliness and the despair: If he had bought everything, this Mayweather, then what was left? He had prayed up and down to the holy book of capitalism, money, money, money, and nevertheless he seemed to be missing some happiness. You should know that Mayweather is favored by the bookmakers, but after this interview it became clear that Pacquiao has a good chance. Because he is the more intelligent of the two.

Basically, the choice is clear. Naturally, you have to cross your fingers for this man from Manilla, who had boxed his way out of the slums, to feed his family; who went crazy for a while–as probably anyone would–as the first golden waves of success came rolling in and knocked him off his feet; who thought better and rediscovered his faith (the Philippines is a Catholic country–Pope Francis held a mass in Manila in front of seven million people, a world record for attendance) and entered politics to build schools and orphanages for those who did not have his good fortune.”

I don’t think I did too bad. I think the end result sounds natural, accurately conveys the source (I think), and gets the tone right. So I’m happy with my work this morning.

Lessons for You

A couple takeaways from this.

First, if you’re truly interested in a subject, you’ll enjoy what you’re doing more. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of my studying this morning because I’m so emotionally invested in the topic.

Second, if you’re truly interested in a subject, you’ll be able to accomplish more. This was a fairly complicated source text, since the author made artistic choices with his phrasing and vocabulary. If a text had been written in this style about economics or international politics, subjects I’m not that interested in, I doubt I would’ve come up with as good a translation. Since I like and know about the subject, I was able to push myself, to reach a little bit, and still get the work done.

I’ve talked before about how important it is to have fun, so look for opportunities to have fun in your own studying. If you’re learning Japanese because you like Manga, don’t just read Japanese Manga. Read news about Manga.

If you’re a guitar player and learning French, watch a guitar tutorial en français.

If you’re passionate about cooking, follow a recipe in your new language.

Even if you don’t think you’re at the proficiency level to handle those texts, your interest in the subject will carry you and you might end up surprising yourself.

Good luck!

…oh, and…

Go Pacquiao!

  • Roman Shinkarenko

    I wanted to write “I hope Pacquiao isn’t aspiring to become the mayor of Kyiv, like some other boxers”, but I see he already beat me to that.

    • Ron G.

      LOL…yup. Even my mom has been irritated with some of his political preachings. (It passes, hah.)

      • Cat Ramos キャット ラモス

        He should just quit politics! He is always absent in Congress anyway 😀

        • Ron G.

          LOL…Pacquiao the politician…doesn’t cause a love/hate relationship with the Filipino audience, but maybe a love/tough-love relationship.

  • vern777er

    The fight was a bit disappointing for the Pacquiao fans.

    • Ron G.

      Ugh, tell me about it. lol…credit to Mayweather, but that was unpleasant to watch toward the later rounds. hahaha

      • vern777er

        I used to watch a lot of boxing back in the day. Haven’t seen too much lately and that was the first time I’ve seen Mayweather, but from a boxing point of view he fought a brilliant fight.