Close your eyes for a second. Take a deep breath and imagine the following scenario. This is the last game of the season. Your team is at the top of the league standings, and you are nothing less than the league’s MVP. After the game, some people you know were scouting you come and speak to you, and you have no idea how to respond. What an odd situation, right?
Language barriers have a significant impact on an athlete’s performance. Among other consequences, they cause disconnection, isolation, and frustration. These factors are translated into a deficiency in self-esteem, as well as individual and group development.
This is just one example of how language barriers work in sports. Of course, English as a global language allows people to try to understand and express themselves at least in a precarious way. But this is not enough, and it may have a negative impact on your career as an athlete, whatever the discipline. The good thing about them is that they are avoidable, and you have the ability to remove the barrier at this time.
A language barrier is an impossibility for two or more people to communicate with each other for linguistic reasons. They may seem to be easily tackled by body language, such as taking your hand to your ear to make reference to a phone. But the barrier still stands there even in those cases, as these gestures only cover simple needs.
Language barriers in sports are quite common given the worldwide movement due to transfers and international competitions. The example provided above may not seem significant, but it is a clear sign that a language barrier will exist. In that hypothetical situation, one or both parties must act accordingly, and the most probable case is that it will be your job to do.
Language barriers have several negative effects that may impact your sports career. Whether on or off the field, we tend to unconsciously absorb what the environment offers. This becomes a major issue when the impact is spread throughout the entire team. For example, the inability to understand causes explanations from your coach to slow down. This results in the whole team feeling the necessity of slowing down, too.
Another individual impact language barriers can have on your performance is isolation. In order for a team to work well together, it needs to function well together. Good relationships are a must within a specific set of people. This coherence is quite difficult to achieve if the team is incapable of communicating with each other. Whether it is during training or at a meeting outside the institution, bonding with your teammates without a common language is quite impossible.
Language barriers do not last forever. It is true that many Latin American athletes have been transferred to an English-speaking country and are now at their best performance. Think about any particular individual and evaluate how much time it took for them to overcome that issue. During that time period, things must have been very difficult, both in their sports and personal lives. Life would have been much easier if that language barrier had not existed from the start.
As we have mentioned in another article (Go to Why is English Language Such a Useful Tool?), English is the predominant language. And this counts for you, and your teammates as well. Whether you continue your career in an English-speaking country or not, English language will always be the common language for both parties to meet. Thus, it becomes your most powerful tool to avoid the issues stated above and many others.
By tackling a language barrier before it appears, you are taking advantage of the time it may take for you and your new environment to relate. This decreases the need of adjusting to a new place and allows you to focus on your performance. In this way, your sports career will not suffer such a strong negative impact whenever that time comes. In other words, English is a perfect tool to boost your sports career.