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  • Writer's pictureChris Broadfoot

Touchdown! How to Tackle Language Barriers and Score International Success.

Welcome to your new home!

You’ve hopped off the plane, accommodation and transport are sorted, and you already love the feel of your new country.

But, as you wander around the airport terminal looking for the taxi driver holding your name up,

There’s just one problem…

No one speaks English.

a world of people speaking different languages

Being an overseas athlete is one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer,

But what do you do when you can’t understand what anyone is saying?

Or, when no one understands you?

Don’t stress! Here are 3 tips to help you avoid getting your tongue in a twist:

  1. A few words are better than none.

It can be really handy to equip yourself with just a few basic phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting. 

Since you are an athlete, it can be especially useful to learn the most common phrases related to your sport. 

Start small, and you’ll have more than enough to get by in most interactions.

2. Embrace cultural differences.

Natives of other countries are scarily good at identifying who is one of their own, and who isn’t. 

Chances are, they’ll take one look at you with your suitcase and know you’ll probably have no idea what they’re talking about.

Your fellow athletes will definitely already know.

And, this is fine! 

Take these moments as opportunities to ask questions - 

Ask more about the meanings of words, 

Embrace their customs,

Find out more about their culture.

This in turn will foster mutual respect between yourself and others, since they will see that you are interested in learning about THEM!

(Check out last week's article about overcoming cultural differences here)

3. When in doubt, use your body!

When all else fails, play charades! 

Where verbal communication is limited in some situations, there’s nothing wrong with using visual aids and sign language to get your information across.

Especially in sports like football, sometimes a simple gesture with your hands signalling to your feet is an effective way of telling your teammate you want the ball passed to your feet, without the need for any words.

Actions speak louder than words,

And it’s no different in another country.

Remember, it’s not easy communicating in another language.

But, keep these 3 tips in mind and you’ll be well on your way.

Don’t forget, that patience comes first when overcoming language barriers!

It’s not easy, so use every training session, meeting, and competition as another chance to improve your ability to communicate.

Best of luck, and remember to enjoy every new experience!

That’s all for this week,

Your personal translator,

The Overseas Athlete

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