The Tower of Ryan Babel: Football, Language, and Translation
by Brian Phillips · December 20, 2007
This week’s Run of Play at Pitch Invasion feature looks at the problem of communication in the globalized world of contemporary football, and asks how, with such a wide range of languages in use at any given moment, players, managers, fans and the media are ever able to understand one another.
When an average club contains players with seven or eight different native languages, has a manager who speaks a ninth, and is tracked by media from 65 countries and by fans from every corner of the globe, how do we avoid a complete breakdown of meaning? What’s keeping us from endlessly replicating all those old stories about Tokyo hotels with signs reading, “You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid,” or Hong Kong dry cleaners that urged gentlemen to “drop your trousers here for best results”?
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