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La Academia News

Should football managers learn their host country’s language?

Posted on : November 12, 2015

la Academia has a wealth of experience in teaching English to Premiership overseas coaches, so we were very interested to read about David Moyes’ language problems in Spain. Moyes’ contract with Real Sociedad has just been terminated, after less than a year of coaching in La Liga.

One of the issues was the language barrier. Moyes apparently did not learn much Spanish during his stay and this caused communication issues with his squad. Cultural issues were also a problem – Moyes is a finger-pointer, and this is seen as rude by many of his players, though no rudeness was intended. There are lessons here for Premier League clubs and for any business employing overseas staff who need to learn English and settle quickly.

Language learner – Jump in and use your new language

Moyes started well, showing off some Spanish in an early press conference, saying that the B team “have been training with me uno, dos, tres, cuatro times”. Starting to use your new language skills is definitely to be recommended, as it shows a willingness to learn and demonstrates a strong work ethic.

Premier League managers who do not make an effort to learn the language are a target for the Press. Our press hounds love a foreign accent, but don’t like working through interpreters. While at Southampton Mauricio Pochettino was criticised for not speaking English in press conferences. He explained that he did speak to his players and staff in English, but chose to use an interpreter when speaking to the press to make sure that his answers to complex questions were not misconstrued. However, when he moved to Tottenham Hotspur less than a year later he gave his first interview to Spurs TV in English. He was even able to crack a joke when the interviewer asked him about supposed plans for double training sessions “sometimes three!” he joked.

Language learner – Don’t be embarrassed to speak

It was reported that Moyes was still using an interpreter in team talks at the end of his brief reign, as he felt that speaking only basic Spanish would undermine his authority. When asked if it slows down the flow of the half-timing rollicking, he said “I can assure you a rollicking in any language sounds the same”!

Language learner – mind the cultural angles!

A rollicking may sound the same, but gestures may not translate well into another culture. Some players were reportedly upset that Moyes pointed at them. A few lessons in Spanish culture ahead of the move would have been worthwhile – Moyes had a reputation as a pointer before going to Spain and someone should have told him!

Real Sociedad’s president Jokin Aperribay said that “Moyes has exceeded my expectations in terms of hard work and integrity. ..That David Moyes didn’t achieve results is not only his fault…Perhaps Moyes didn’t succeed here because of the cultural difference with the players”.

Employer – Consider getting other staff to learn the overseas employee’s language

It was also reported that some of David Moyes’ staff were learning English to help him to settle into Spanish life more smoothly. la Academia has experience of teaching Premier League club staff other languages in order for them to be able to converse with overseas players, coaches and other staff. This idea is well worth consideration as part of the settling-in plan for an overseas employee, particularly a high net worth individual like a footballer.

Managers – remember the Press

Since many managers now blame the Press for having an agenda against them it cannot help to charm them with some English. Jurgen Klopp, who can make a joke in English, is the current Press darling, replacing Jose Mourinho whose unique way with words made him the previous favourite.

Yes, learn the language!

In summary – yes, learn the language! Whether you are a football manager or an ordinary worker, better communication with colleagues, managers and people outside your business is the key.

If you are bringing in an overseas member of staff (footballers welcome, but we help others too!), ask la Academia for help with lessons for them and their colleagues. If you are going abroad to work invest some time in learning a bit of the language before you go – it will pay back in increased enjoyment of the experience while you are away! Our enthusiastic and experienced team can be reached on 0161 491 1444 or info@laacademia.co.uk

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