X Cultural Ep - Zachary Haitkin
Zachary Haitkin and host Michael J. Asquith have a lively discussion on X Cultural via a Vistatec webcast. Zachary was a Lyft driver for over a year before becoming a Localization Project Manager and a Localization Program Manager for Lyft. Michael, an industry-experienced cross-cultural communications leader, joined with Vistatec to work as a Global Solutions Executive.
X Cultural is the “intersection between passion, culture, and global communications to inspire ideas, connectivity, and global mindedness.”. This first episode focuses on major league baseball and is a bilingual edition.
Part of the conversation between Zachary and Michael focuses on how global baseball is (as a sport)—and the connection between baseball, business, passion, and cross-cultural communications. This dynamic discussion also centers around localization and global trade, featuring Wrigley Field as the virtual background. Zachary begins the session by explaining that while he currently lives in San Francisco, he grew up in LA; the rivalry between the two baseball teams is sometimes complex for him as he is an intensely loyal fan.
Zachary lived abroad in Oaxaca for some time, quickly becoming a fan of the baseball team, Los Guerreros. Different areas of Mexico tend to favor either soccer or baseball, but Oaxaca leans heavily into both. Watching these games not only solidified Zach’s love for baseball but also meshed well with his love for languages. This particular season when Zach was in Oaxaca, the Guerreros were doing well and ended up going to the playoffs (interestingly, the word “playoffs” is the same in English and Spanish). Zach remembers the experience as an incredible one he will never forget!
Michael also speaks fondly of baseball, remembering games he went to at Wrigley Field with his father from the time he was very young. Michael asks Zach where his passion for baseball began. Zach began playing baseball at the age of five, continuing through college. At the age of twelve, Zach also had a friend whose parents were season ticket holders, further fostering his love of the game, particularly when he would meet players and get their autographs.
Superstition, Ritual, and Cheating in the Sport of Baseball
Michael and Zach discuss the cheating scandal related to the Houston Astros, and how disappointing it was for both of them—and how karma seems to kick in when there’s a scandal in the sport. They then discuss the superstitions and rituals associated with baseball. Most baseball players have habits they practice before each game—or before each pitch or bat. For some, the entire ritual must be practiced in the exact sequence. Superstitions are born of events that preceded a winning game, leading to a lucky bat or a particular meal eaten before the game.
Baseball—A Game of Averages and Muscle Memory
There’s no other sport with more games played throughout a regular season than baseball. Further, baseball is very much a game of averages, as well as a game of muscle memory. Players do the same thing repeatedly, so when a typically solid player makes errors, it usually has less to do with a physical injury than their mental state. Michael and Zach discuss what is known as the “yips” in baseball—a sudden inability to throw the ball accurately with no explanation.
Michael asks Zach to “transcreate” yips in Spanish. Transcreation is different from straight translation in that content is adapted from one language to another, taking care to maintain the existing tone, intent, and style. While fluent in Spanish, Zach reminds Michael that he is a non-native speaker, so he does not have the same cultural understanding as a native speaker. That being said, he would say yips is a mental difficulty causing physical problems, but that he really can’t fully transcreate the word. So, even though Baseball is America’s pastime, it is also a global sport.
Global Baseball Players
Zach and Michael discuss Latin America and Asia crossovers and the different leagues, such as the Korean Baseball Organization and the NPB in Japan. The two talk about the fact that Cuban players no longer have to defect like they once did to join the MLB. While the contracts in other countries are not nearly as big financially as those in America, those that love baseball will play no matter what. Some other countries play in the wintertime to avoid the extreme heat of the summer—there are winter leagues in Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic.
Professional players in the U.S. will sometimes even go to South America and play with a winter league. One exception is the Liga Mexican Baseball League, which plays in the summer. In other countries like Venezuela and Colombia, while baseball fans will root for their local team, they also feel a real connection to players in the U.S. Major Leagues from their country. Since a large percentage of baseball players (about half) are from Latin America, this furthers the global aspect of baseball.
The World Baseball Classic
Zach and Michael discuss the World Baseball Classic, an international baseball tournament. There are twenty teams in the finals of the World Baseball Classic. While the U.S. grabbed the latest title, Japan has the honor of having won the most titles (2). Players worldwide join in the love of baseball, making it even easier to become emotionally invested in the game.
Michael and Zach discuss localization, including the MLB website, the available languages, and what they both went through regarding the customer side of the user experience on that site. Specifically, the conversation turns to how things are translated for Spanish or transcreated in some cases. As a non-native Spanish speaker, Zach notes that to stay “on his game,” he has to immerse and surround himself in the Spanish language.
Taking classes and studying in Mexico left him reasonably fluent in the language, but then four or five years of being back in the states left him less confident in his abilities. Zach changed his phone and computer websites into Spanish to make sure he kept up with the language and now feels more comfortable.
Some examples of transcreation vs. translation: In soccer, the referee is called “el arbitro,” but sometimes that term is also used to describe an umpire. Yet you will also see the term “ampayer” (for umpire), which is more of an Anglicanism of the word in English.
Some announcers will just say “shortstop,” but the MLB website calls it “campocorto,” which means short fielder. A “double play” is called a “dolly matanza,” yet when back-translated, it means “double kill.” When you see the translations of these words, you realize transcreation is simply impossible in some cases. Zach notes that the MLB has gone to significant extents to make sure the terms are correctly transcreated, to the extent possible. Michael asks Zach to say the final predictions for the world series and passes on his thanks to Zach for speaking about a subject like baseball that extends to global business and culture.