Interpreters Unlimited spreads Christmas cheer with NORAD

Since 1955, pinpointing Santa Claus’s exact location on NORAD Tracks Santa has been an exciting Christmas Eve tradition for children across the globe (almost as exciting as opening Santa’s gifts the next day). 

Each December, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) hosts its NORAD Tracks Santa program, allowing kids to track Santa’s exact location in real time. To spread the holiday cheer even further, NORAD and Interpreters Unlimited have partnered up to offer NORAD Tracks Santa in eight languages, making it more accessible to kids from different linguistic backgrounds.

MultiLingual caught up with the team at Interpreters Unlimited to learn more about the joys of providing pro bono language services for kids using NORAD Tracks Santa. 

“Today, more so than ever, we all need to take a moment to enjoy the simple things,” said Shamus Sayed, vice president of Interpreters Unlimited. “In this case, it’s nice knowing that kiddos were able to find where Santa is, real time, in their native language.”

Sayed said Interpreters Unlimited began translating the NORAD Tracks Santa website into different languages and providing voiceover interpreting services for the program’s phone hotline 15 years ago. The program is offered in eight languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese. The NORAD Tracks Santa hotline receives thousands of calls every Christmas Eve, fielding more than 53,000 calls in 2021.

“Whatever the demands are for that year, we make it work,” Sayed said.

According to NORAD’s website, the organization began its Santa tracking program in 1955, when a child mistakenly called NORAD’s predecessor after seeing a newspaper ad with a phone number to call Santa. When NORAD’s Harry Shoup answered the phone, he played along and continued the tradition every year after that. Today, children can view Santa’s exact location on the NORAD Tracks Santa website or call NORAD’s hotline at 1-(877)-446-6723.

“Offering the program in English plus seven other languages is not only convenient for users, but it also helps to promote goodwill and international understanding,” Interpreters Unlimited wrote in a statement. “Interpreters Unlimited is extremely happy to play a part alongside NORAD making memories, helping to bring Christmas spirit, spreading holiday joy and cheer to millions of children year after year.”

Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.


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