Updated: Sep 8, 2020
Did you know about 2 billion people around the world speak English? That’s almost 25% of the world’s population, making it the world’s most spoken language (in terms of number of speakers). But just how many footballers speak English?
For many footballers, foreign languages are something of a taboo subject. The mere mention of Gareth Bale, Joey Barton, David Beckham or Joe Hart is enough to put us off learning another language for good.
However, as funny as these cases were (and, yes, they were rather funny, check out YouTube!), learning a foreign language is arguably the most important pastime in which a modern footballer can partake.
And for every Bale there is an Ibrahimovic (Swedish, Bosnian, English, Italian, Spanish and French), for every Beckham, a Lukaku (French, Dutch, English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Lingala).
But you don’t have to be a polygot (able to speak several languages) to gain a competitive advantage.
All it takes is a good understanding of English, football’s most spoken language, to eliminate any linguistic concerns and make real progress in your career and in the rest of your life.
In this piece we look at 5 of the main reasons learning English can help you as a professional footballer:
1) Communicate with team-mates and coaches
On the football field, there is nothing more frustrating than knowing what you want to do but not being able to express yourself in a new language. You see that important pass but can’t find the words, or you hear your manager shouting instructions in your direction but look away in confusion.
You can have all the skills in the world, and be confident in your abilities with a ball in front of your feet, but if you can’t properly understand the language, it often affects your performance.
By studying the football specific tactics, vocabulary and expressions, you can take action to eliminate this on-field problem, feel confident discussing tactics with your coach in English and communicate effectively in those important matches. It really can make an enormous difference.
2) Settle into life in a new country
Football is not just about what you do on the pitch, but also how we live off the field. How many times have you seen a top-class footballer fail to settle in a new country because he struggles to adapt to a new culture and language?
By learning the language you can ensure this never happens and really feel comfortable in your new life.
Whether it is being able to order confidently in your local restaurant, speaking to your neighbours, opening a bank account or understanding the teachers at your child’s new school, you (and your family) are going to get so much more from life if you can speak the language.
3) Interact with the media and fans
In the modern world of football, the media and fans have access to players and their teams like never before.
Being able to communicate effectively in the local language can make an incredible difference in terms of a player’s profile.
We have all seen the new foreign signing try to conduct an interview using a few broken words of English and the impression that creates.
If you can explain yourself properly in pre and post-match interviews and allow your personality to shine through rather than being caught out by confusing questions, it dramatically improves your image at your club, and in the eyes of the media (who we know can be important in forming public perception of players in their articles!)
Similarly, you will instantly endear yourself to your new fans if they see you make an effort in their language and they can get to know you properly. As we all know, having the fans on side is a massive factor and can ultimately be decisive in terms of your future at the club and the opportunities that arise.
4) Read and consume the game like a local
Online match reports, newspaper articles, podcasts, commentaries – many footballers say they don’t read the media but we know they do!
After all, there’s nothing more satisfying than coming home from a game after a wonderful performance and hearing all the positive things the commentator or journalist has to say about you and that winning goal you scored!
Perhaps more importantly, understanding the language can help you understand how opposition teams play, what tactics they use, how they are performing and who the danger man is, before you play them?
By learning English, you give yourself the opportunity not only to read and hear about your own performance, but to do your pre-match homework on your rivals and gain a competitive edge!
5) Prepare for the rest of your life!
English is a wonderful skill to have not just now, but for the rest of your life. The average footballer career lasts up to 20 years – but after it is all finished, you may have another 40+ years to live, and in many cases, work!
It is only normal that you are focused on your football career at the moment, but perhaps we should pause for a moment to consider what comes next.
Many professional football careers can involve a lot of free time, so now could be the perfect opportunity to pick up a language and prepare for the rest of your professional career and life.
Too often we tell ourselves we cannot learn a language, but we all can, and all it takes is having the determination to visit that website or contact that language teacher for the first time.
Don’t be afraid – start learning English today and you will not regret it!
Fluent Football offers online English for football professionals and fans. Visit our website today at www.fluentfootball.com to explore the range of individual classes and discounted packages and you could be learning English immediately from the comfort of your own home!
Original photo (Lukaku) courtesy of Transfermarkt.com