I was surprised to read in the newspaper today that English footballer Joey Barton gave a press conference in a French accent. It’s not so surprising that someone in a foreign country would attempt to mimic his hosts’ way of talking, as many expatriates do, including Steve McClaren, – what was surprising was the amount of publicity and derision it attracted. This may have something to do with Barton’s personality in general – he has apparently said that he is too intelligent to be a footballer and claims that he reads Nietzschze.

As a language services company offering bespoke language training tailored to the student’s particular needs, we would obviously argue that the best thing to do if you want to address the press in another country is to learn the language. We realise that this takes time, however, and what came across as a ‘silly’ accent was Barton’s attempt at what experts call ‘speech accommodation’. Barton himself argues that the French reporters would not have understood his natural Scouse accent, so he had to adapt his speech to match theirs. Cyclist Bradley Wiggins, on the other hand, speaks good French, but was criticised for deciding not to use it during some of the Tour de France press conferences.

Many sportspeople have international careers, but are not renowned for their language skills. Although ridiculed for not being particularly eloquent even in English, David Beckham did manage some Spanish after a few years with Real Madrid. Italian Fabio Capello, however, never achieved fluency in English despite his promises to learn the language in record time when he took over the English national football team.

Here in Wales, so many rugby players are moving to France that the phenomenon has been dubbed an ‘exodus’. They are given French lessons before leaving and, according to the Western Mail, phrases may include ‘Oh non, qu’at’il fait maintenant, Gavin Henson?’ (Oh no, what’s Gavin Henson done now?) and ‘Je suis encore amer à propos de la demi-finale du coupe du monde en rugby, 2011’ (I’m still bitter about the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final [when Wales lost to France]).

These days, globalisation means it’s not only footballers who may want to work abroad. If you’re contemplating a global career, don’t hesitate to contact us. You have nothing to lose, except perhaps your usual accent.


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