He Shoots, He Scores … in Punjabi

Take a nation’s favorite sport. Take an iconic, if underachieving team in that sport. And take pent up interest in that team from people who speak the nation’s fourth most popular language, and what do you get?

Toronto Maple Leafs games. Telecast in Punjabi.

(Parminder Singh and Harnarayan Singh, at a Leafs practice Feb. 15, 2009, are Punjabi hockey commentators. Photo by Rick Eglinton, Toronto Star)

The Toronto Star has a story this morning about the surprising interest Punjabi-speaking Canadians have in watching Hockey Night in Canada. The two announcers estimate they have close to a hundred thousand viewers in Canada.

“Many parents and grandparents would earlier watch the game but they mute it because they don’t understand what the commentators are saying. Now, they are much more involved,” said host Harnarayan Singh, 24, a reporter for CBC Radio in Calgary.

Nice! Even better is the inevitable translating that had to occur:

But before they could engage the community, they had to come up with a proper lexicon. Some terms are easily translatable from field hockey, so “stick” is “soti.”

“He shoots, he scores” became “mahriaa shot, keeta goal.”

The real challenge was to find a word for “puck.” The two settled on “tikki” based on a puck-shaped potato appetizer. But they started calling it puck after a few games when viewers told them they understood what it was. Another term they struggled with was icing. Ice in Punjabi is “barf.” “Barfed” the puck sounded ridiculous and so they stuck to the English term.

I have to agree. “Barfing the tikki” sounds pretty weird. But “Mahriaa shot, keeta goal!” That I like.


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