Multilingualism and FIFA

 With FIFA currently in our sights, I started wondering just how the communication flows between all the players, on and off the field. Have you ever wondered what language all those players and referees are speaking to each other on the pitch? How do they all communicate without interpreters in the mix?

FIFA is host to 32 different countries speaking up to 20 different languages, so it makes sense to wonder if there have been any negative outcomes due to miscommunication, especially because we do not see any interpreters running around on the field with them. Multilingual Magazine recently wrote on this very topic and, as can be expected with all things intercultural and multilingual, errors have occurred.

 “On Sunday, South Korea’s head coach Paulo Bento spoke to reporters about the status of two injured players, Kim Min-jae and Hwang Hee-chan. Korean-speaking spectators were disappointed to hear that both players would be sitting out at the next day’s match against Ghana, but it turns out the misunderstanding was the result of an erroneous interpretation.

Speaking in his native Portuguese, Bento said that he would make a game-day decision about whether or not Kim could play, and that Hwang would sit out the next day’s match. The Korean interpretation, however, led audience members to believe that neither player would be able to participate in the following game.

According to a report from The Korea Times, the Korean Football Association filed an official complaint with FIFA over the error the next day. FIFA claims to be taking steps toward ensuring that future incidents like this do not occur.”

Well, it will be interesting to see just what steps FIFA will take to mitigate these errors in communication. Read the full article here.

And Yahoo news says that English has become the de-facto language of choice, not only for FIFA but also, it seems, the Olympics, where English has usurped French as the go-to language. This Yahoo News Story also shares another incident of alleged miscommunication, between a Japanese referee and a Croatian player.