How do footballers learn languages?

How Do Footballers Learn Languages

The beautiful game is full of universally-understood gestures, movements and phrases. Whilst the main languages of the game are English, French and Spanish, there are literally hundreds of native tongues that communicate across the thousands of professional teams across the world. 

When a big new signing arrives at a new international club, there’s a lot to get sorted. Contracts, medicals, media, and meeting their new teammates and coaches. But often the most critical element that can get overlooked is language – actually being able to communicate with their new manager and teammates. 

There have been plenty of recent examples where this has taken a while and has affected players’ ability to settle. Jurgen Klopp gave Brazilian midfielder Fabinho three games off to try and acclimatise better to living in England – and the German manager is a particular stickler for demanding that all players in his squad can speak English fully. 

No matter the transfer fees and wages involved, learning a brand-new language takes time. Having said that, top players seem to have a knack for picking them up surprisingly quickly! Here’s a look at how footballers learn languages so fast. 

Interactions with the squad and coaches

Many football coaches insist that their squads all communicate in the same language for clarity and transparency purposes – typically that of the nation where the team is based. This means that players who don’t yet speak the main language of the team are surrounded by that language all day and, thankfully for them, many of the game-critical terms such as ‘pass’ and ‘offside’ are universally understood

This constant exposure to a new language is key to start picking up words and phrases and putting them into practice. 

Translators and teammates 

There are some translators in football who are nearly as famous as the player they’re translating for! Most famous in the Premier League is no doubt Marcelo Bielsa’s Argentinian translator (and performance analyst), Andres Clavijo, who became a reluctant cult hero in Leeds. 

Players like Gareth Bale when he left Spurs for Madrid also brought a translator with him to understand coach Carlo Ancelotti and his teammates, whilst some senior players are often instructed to take junior country-fellows under their wing to get them acclimatised to the culture and language of the new team. 

Tutors and online classes

Whilst translators and natural exposure to a new language are useful, the only true way that footballers quickly learn a new language is to actually learn it – properly! 

Most football clubs’ player liaison departments will link new international players up with trusted language tutors to either teach the player in person, usually at their home at a time that fits around their training schedule, or by enrolling them in online classes. 

At HATRIQA, that’s where we come in! We’ve helped some of the game’s most recognised players and coaches to quickly learn Football English through our tutor-led online training courses. 

What’s more, whether you’re a pro footballer or not, you can sign-up for our classes or try one of our online mini-courses to get started!

Learn more about our online English language courses here.

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