The magazine for Western Washington University

One Alum Went Behind the Scenes at the Olympics

By John Thompson | University Communications

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Derik Bron, left, attended the gold medal ceremony of U.S. sailor Anna Tunnicliffe. | Photo by Courtesy

Derik Bron’s (’07) Chinese language skills took him to the Beijing Summer Olympics, but not to compete.

He served as volunteer translator at the Olympic sailing events, based in Qingdao on the Yellow Sea.

He and other volunteers spent long hours translating speeches, letters, programs, signs, tickets and PowerPoint slides, says Bron, who majored in Linguistics and minored in Chinese at Western and is working toward his master’s degree in Chinese at Valparaiso University.

“Because I am a native (English) speaker, I was able to detect immediately if there were tense errors or if the text was hard to read or didn’t make any sense,” he says. “This actually happened a lot.”

Bron didn’t come home with a medal, but he did get a total immersion experience in Chinese language. Keeping up with his co-workers’ rapid-fire office banter was challenging, he says, but that didn’t keep him from belting out Chinese pop tunes with the gang at the office karaoke party.

Bron also got to see a bit of the Olympics, including a close-up view of U.S. sailor Anna Tunnicliffe’s gold medal ceremony that left him moved.

“Hearing the Star Spangled Banner never sounded so patriotic,” he wrote in his blog, “and seeing red, white and blue flying in the sky was stunning.”