Volunteer Translators Break Down Language Barriers at Georgia Dome

(ATLANTA – Sept. 24, 2015)Carlos Chang of Marietta speaks three languages fluently – hold on, let’s make that four if you count the ever-growing international lexicon of soccer.

It’s soccer – or fútbol – that has allowed Chang, 67, to use his linguistic skills in a way to benefit metro Atlanta’s burgeoning international population, aid Georgia Dome customers and staff, all the while feeding his passion for the sport.

A native of Guatemala, Chang, who is Director of Business Credit at the Buckhead branch of AloStar Bank, has volunteered as a Spanish translator and provider of a squad of interpreters at a handful of the Dome’s international soccer matches – most recently at July 22’s sold-out CONCACAF Gold Cup Semi-Finals featuring matchups between the U.S.A.-Jamaica and Mexico-Panama.

It was a huge stage for the sport and the Capital City as the double-header drew a crowd of 70,511, setting a new attendance record for soccer within the city of Atlanta.

The semi-final of the bi-annual tournament featuring the top 12 teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean, was also the first appearance of the Men’s U.S. National Team in Atlanta since 1977.

So stakes were high, excitement was in the air and the Dome’s team of translators were prepped to help enhance the fan experience.

Sporting a bright orange T-shirt emblazoned with the Gold Cup 2015 logo on the front and Nike Soccer insignia on the back, Chang stationed himself in front of the Lower Gate D Service Center Desk at the Georgia Dome, receiving wave after wave of inquiries from Gold Cup ticketholders after they entered the doors. He helped two fans of Team Mexico, one of them a young man draped in a Mexican flag, directing them to the seating chart at the Service Desk, and after some pointing, conversing in Spanish and gesturing upward to the nearby ramps, the pair thanked him and moved on in the quest to find their seats.

Chang’s teams of orange-T-shirt-clad translators recruited from local international soccer organizations, were stationed around the Dome at the venue’s Guest Service Centers standing ready to break down the language barriers. “All the volunteers either play in the various Hispanic soccer leagues in the greater Atlanta area – I estimate that, conservatively, there are more than 50 such leagues – or are organizers,” said Chang.

Staffers at the Dome Service Center Desks said having translators on hand is invaluable for an event such as The Gold Cup, which drew large contingents of fans of Spanish-speaking nations Mexico and Panama.

Chang says the No. 1 thing he helps people with is directions – how to find their seats, the sections and levels their seats are in, concessions, bathrooms, etc.  “Where is this, where is that?” he said.

In exchange for his service, Chang and his associates got to watch some of the on-field action (although anyone who has worked an event knows, you don’t get to see much of said event) – got to keep their T-shirts and credentials, and pocket some Dome Bucks, which can be redeemed for food and beverages inside the stadium.

But for Chang, who has attended three World Cups – Mexico in 1970, Argentina in 1978 and when the U.S. hosted in 1994 – it’s more about helping the sport grow in Atlanta and connecting the city’s Hispanic soccer community with the area’s premier soccer venue.

“My recollection is that I first became aware of the potential need for volunteers to translate (Spanish/English) mainly at soccer events, while my wife was working in Human Resources at the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA), which covers the Dome,” said Chang, whose wife is no longer a GWCCA employee.

Providing translators is simply a smart business practice for the GWCCA campus that hosts international events such as The Gold Cup.

“The Authority has a long history, a legacy, of providing Best-In-Class customer service that focuses on end-to-end experiences for our customers,” said Jennifer LeMaster, GWCCA’s Director of Communications. “Overcoming language barriers is just an extension of our service.”



Kent Kimes
Sr.  Staff Writer