Posted on: 24 May 2012
Written by: joel
It should be no surprise that Roy Hodgson got the England football coach’s job. He is eminently qualified, having coached the Finnish, Swiss and United Arab Emirates national teams and he has managed 21 teams in 8 countries over 36 years. But the English press was slow to see the attraction, with the Sun’s headline of “Bwing on the Euwos (We’ll see you in Ukwaine against Fwance)” (in reference to Hodgson’s pronunciation of the English ’r' sound), a particularly dismissive response to his appointment.
Yet Hodgson speaks five languages fluently (Norwegian, Swedish, Italian, German and English) and knows some Finnish and French. Mocking a man who speaks seven languages because of his pronunciation of one sound in one language illustrates the continued reluctance of many Brits to value multilingualism.
This is all the more depressing when we consider that Hodgson’s linguistic proficiency is at the heart of his success. He has respected the culture and language of the countries where he has worked. In his first management position at Halmstad in Sweden in 1976, he immersed himself in Swedish football and learnt Swedish. He went on to win the Swedish Championship twice and had successful spells at three other Swedish clubs. According to Patrik Andersson, who played under him at Malmo, Hodgson “has a great reputation in Sweden”. Ramon Vega, who also played under Hodgson, says this about him, “He’s the only English manager at the moment proven to do something internationally and he’s done it in the Premier League and he’s a true English gentleman on top of that. He’s an English manager who had the courage to go abroad, learn the language and culture and come back and prove himself as well”.
Perhaps Hodgson will lead England to glory in Ukraine and Poland and receive the recognition in his home country that his talents deserve. And if he does succeed, England will have plenty of reason to appreciate his multilingual competence.