Answer by Nadine Verschelden, former Belgian Judo Champion, owner of Aidemo, an intercultural management and foreign language training business.
“When athletes leave their home country to play abroad, they of course have to learn and operate in English on a daily basis. If they aren’t English native speaker, that’s the least they can do ! Most often we end up speaking a sort of “Globish”, or whatever you want to call it… but what if the country that you are going to speaks a different official language? Should you learn the local language of the country you are playing in?
Well, let’s look at what you can expect as an outcome? A whole lot of positive consequences!
Because by doing so, you will understand people and their culture better and they will be grateful that you show some interest in them, their language (and their culture). By doing this effort, they will welcome you in a very different way than they would have if you would have kept addressing them in English.
Just try to imagine how you would react to someone who is learning your home language (be it different from English of course). You would show the same amount of respect and gratitude, and highlight the effort, wouldn’t you ? It is part of your intercultural awareness!
Besides becoming a local’s favorite player, learning a new language teaches you how the people’s mind is structured. You will be able to better understand their perspectives and behaviors, and why they react the way they do. You will – in a way – be able to « read » their minds and thus foresee some of their strategy while playing. Who knows ? Deserves a try!
Additionally, for most of them, English is a foreign language too. Speaking English will keep you at a distance, which is no longer the case when speaking their own language.
Even if you are starting to learn the language, people will think and feel closer to you and will be enclined to direct themselves to you instead of anyone else who would stick to English.
When you speak another people’s language, doors will open wider and quicker and trust (which is what playing well together is all about) will develop.
Of course, you don’t have to become fluent nor bilingual in this foreign language (although you always can!). For those of you who want to keep to a minimum, try the ‘survival strategy’ or the 5 words emergency kit: hello, goodbye, thank you, please, excuse me.
That’s the very least you can do!”
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