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English for football managers

December 14, 2007

Hello again,

It seems English football is divided. Some welcome the appointment of Italian, Fabio Capello as the England national coach on the grounds ...

...that he’s the best man for the job. Others bemoan the need to appoint another foreigner to the post for reasons that seem to mix xenophobia and mistrust: would an Italian really want England’s team to succeed?

Surprisingly few of the critics seem concerned that the 61-year-old, whose age alone would appear to make him unlikely to succeed in most other spheres of British life, apparently has but a slender acquaintance with the English language. So what sort of course should he be attending?

For dealing with the squad he will of course need to be able to communicate with other non-native speakers. And even those who have English as their native tongue have a fairly limited appreciation of its grammar and vocabulary. So few problems there for him. I would advise him to stick to body language and gesture; beyond that he won’t need more than the few words he undoubtedly already knows.

In daily life, he will have to confront the occasional native speaker but it seems unlikely that run-of-the-mill English will meet his needs. Take the scene at the bank. Just what do you say to bank staff when you need to open an account to handle your £6 million a year salary? Not many course books deal with that.

I hope he steers clear of a certain type of English Italian restaurant because he may be somewhat bemused when the waiter asks: “would you like chips with that?” Yes, the “chips with everything” mentality is alive and kicking, no matter whether your main dish is pasta or pizza, the chips come too.

Dealing with the press could pose a problem for him, he must certainly learn to understand all the possible variants of the question: “so what went wrong then?” Here he could benefit from Sven Goran Erikson’s phrase book: “I am very sorry and angry about the second half. That was a disaster.” Or: “If we play like that again we may not even get to the World Cup.” But the best advice of all is probably to follow Sven’s bon mot to Beckham: “David should think that talking is silver, but being quiet is golden.”

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