Winter Olympics, Olympic Rings

The Lingua Franca of the Winter Olympics

As communication is becoming more and more globalised through business and social interaction online, English continues to dominate as the lingua franca in which to network. This is particularly apparent in our movie and pop culture, certainly in the western world. English also remains the first language for most of the top social media sites. This wide-ranging use of our language is even reflected in sport, with the current Winter Olympics being a pertinent illustration.


This week, eSense Translations looks at why English still is used so predominately in the Winter Olympics in Korea, a country which is so different from the U.K. and explores whether this puts English-speaking countries at an advantage in these scenarios.


The first reason why English is spoken so widely and appears in most of the Olympic communication is that it is one of the two official languages of the competition (the other being French). Alongside the language of the home nation, English and French are used during the opening ceremony and for the majority of official information provided for the teams competing and also the spectators visiting the games. Consider signs, directions, leaflets and documents, all of which require translating into the three languages.


Communication in and amongst teams also sees English used frequently. Exchanges between competing sporting teams are often made in English, as there are many sporting terms whose origins come from English words and therefore may be used even within non-English speaking team camps. Furthermore, when recruiting a team coach, some teams will go outside of their country and look internationally for the best talent. For example, the unified team of South and North Korea have brought the Canadian coach, Sarah Murray, on board to prepare the team for the competition. This has meant that most of their training has been in English, which has proved manageable for the South Koreans, but more difficult for their Northern neighbours.


The isolation of North Korea has been really highlighted throughout the Games by the difficulty they have experienced communicating during this multinational event.  As discussed above, even those countries that do not have high levels of English are aware of certain Anglicized terms and names that are used in modern culture today and which are difficult to escape.


Education First, an organisation promoting globalisation by assisting with language development, has put together a ranking of the proficiency of English-use of selected countries across the world. Unsurprisingly, North Korea does not appear on the list and if it did, it would most likely be towards the bottom.


This poses the question; does English proficiency affect the extent of which countries are able to interact on the global stage? Does the lack of English skills mean that these countries are at a disadvantage as globalisation becomes the norm? Although, it is beginning to change, most content online is still in English. At the moment this puts English-speakers at an advantage as they are already able to fluently communicate in this lingua franca. However this dominance of English is unlikely to last and in the future, could we be caught out as we have neglected to learn other languages and are left behind in communication across the world?


eSense Translations continues to promote the benefits of learning a language and although it is unlikely to have a major impact on our sporting achievements in the Winter Olympics, its benefits for future global communication cannot be underestimated.


How many languages do you speak? How valuable do you consider it to be to learn languages? And which team are you enjoying watching during this year’s Winter Olympics? Share your opinion with eSense Translations below.



By Lorna Paice

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