It’s difficult to argue that football is not a truly international sport. The conventions used around the world to name players, however, vary widely, and serve as a useful reminder that you can’t directly translate one word into its foreign equivalent. Different cultures express things in different ways – in fact they often express subtly different things full stop. In trying to explain the differences we come across a number of the social, cultural and economic factors that influence language.
When I was at primary school there was a persistent belief in the playground that Brazilian footballers only had one name. I understand where it came from – some of the greats have been known by one word: Pelé, Zico, Ronaldinho (Ronaldinho Gaúcho in Brazil). (more…)
According to research carried out last year by Visit Britain, “foreign tourists spend £2.3 billion a year watching and playing sport”. Unsurprisingly, football is the main sporting attraction in Britain, with matches throughout the country attracting 1.2 million foreign visitors in 2008 (the most recent year with complete figures). A percentage of these were from English-speaking countries: 267,000 were Irish, 95,000 were American and 55,000 Australian. However, a large number of these spectators were from non-English speaking countries: 88,000 Germans, 86,000 Norwegians, 75,000 Spanish, 65,000 Italians, 52,000 Dutch, 46,000 French and 39,000 Swedes. (more…)
I have to say, if asked, I would find it difficult to say how many Spanish or French words I know. An article on the BBC website reported that Fabio Capello recently claimed he uses just 100 English words to communicate with players. (more…)