Do you need to be bilingual to get a message to your team?

Languages, Translation & Localization23 December 20143.1k

Jonny Wilkinson might already have been a celebrated rugby star, but he won himself a new army of fans in the international community when a video recently emerged of him carrying out a team talk to his sporting colleagues in two different languages.

The former England player helped his national side to World Cup victory in 2003 and then went on to win both the Heineken Cup and the Top 14 titles with French side Toulon before his retirement from the sport.

However, in a promotional DVD released to celebrate Toulon's historic double-winning season, Wilkinson proved he is skilled off the field as well as on it. The DVD's trailer contained a clip in which the captain was addressing his team-mates in the changing rooms during half-time of the semi-final match against Racing Metro.

Not only did he say the words in English, but he then started to seamlessly switch to deliver them in French too – and this is despite him apparently not speaking the language at all until he moved to France.

"There's 40 minutes to go. Change it – change it yourselves. We've got enough experience in here," was one of the inspiring messages he relayed (and one of the few sections that wasn't full of expletives in both tongues).

This led to widespread praise on social media and perhaps people who had written Wilkinson off as just another sporting celebrity seeing him in an entirely new light.

Another sporting example of someone who likes to take the inclusive approach in the dressing room is football manager Rafa Benitez, who spoke English to his English players and Spanish to his Spanish players during his temporary tenure at Chelsea.

Yet it is interesting that these two examples stood out because they were unusual. In a world where sports players from all disciplines increasingly move to other countries to pursue their ambitions, should being able to speak more languages than just your mother tongue not be the norm?

Indeed, the CIES Football Observatory in Switzerland recently discovered that in 2013 (the most recent year for which figures were available), 36.1 per cent of all players in the football leagues of Europe were 'foreign' to their particular flights – a record level.

Sportskeeda claims that 70 per cent of Barclays Premier League players in England are from other nations, while similar trends are being noted worldwide.

Would it not make team cohesion a lot simpler if players spoke at least some of the same languages as their colleagues?

An important aspect of news delivery, too

It isn't just in the world of sport where being able to speak another language might be important though. In the fast-moving world of news, reporters from various networks are sent to far-flung corners of the globe as soon as stories break so they can record footage and deliver sound-bites to waiting consumers at home.

Perhaps broadcasters in the same vein as Wilkinson and Benitez  might become more sought-after by international media if they can pick up a microphone and speak in the same tongue as wherever the clips need to be sent.

What if you don't speak the lingo?

Of course, while these examples of particular individuals are able to speak in two languages, it is flippant to suggest that everyone should be able to deliver a team-talk or report in all the nations of the world – indeed, Wilkinson and Benitez would undoubtedly be flummoxed were they deposited in Malaysia or the Philippines and asked to have a conversation with the locals.

So, in our inter-connected global village where people need to speak to those in foreign nations, what's the alternative? Well, if you don't speak the lingo but don't want to sacrifice putting out video clips of your wonderful motivational speakers, you could always go down the translation or voiceover route.

This is a technique commonly used by the news media when collecting 'vox pops' – and it's something you can put into practise with ease, provided you use specialist services such as EQHO that has nearly two decades of experience delivering localized multimedia content across over 50 languages.

It's a good way of winning acclaim for catering for every member of a team or speaking to a much wider world – that doesn't require the thousands of hours of commitment that learning another language would.

Posted by Bilingualism has been showcased by Jonny Wilkinson.


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