Language Learning for a Successful Sports Team — On and Off the Field

Lilly Miner -unless-

Language learning isn’t just for teams in the workplace — it’s important for teams on the field, too. Whether it’s a professional team made up of mostly international players or an after-work football league, being able to communicate clearly and easily with teammates can make or break the course of a game. 

It’s not unusual in sports for teams to have a large international makeup. In Europe, players are often traded between teams in different countries with different languages. In Italy’s Serie A, for example, 61% of the players are international. In the UK’s Premier League, international players make up 63% of the league. And in the US, it’s common to see many international players in the domestic leagues, especially from Latin America.

When people come from multiple linguistic backgrounds and try to work as a cohesive unit in the high-pressure world of sports, being able to say what you need to say — and have it understood — is critical. Just as a single miscommunication can throw off a team’s winning trajectory, having top-tier communication, with everyone on the same page of the game plan, can help ensure victory. 

Language learning on the field

In sports, it’s not enough to convey the general strategy for the game — you also have to react to the other team’s plays and perhaps change the course of action in a split second. In the heat of the moment, it’s essential to be understood right away when you’re yelling instructions to a teammate — there’s no time to think twice about what exact words to use.

The best reason to get everyone on the same linguistic page? There’s nothing like literally speaking the same language to solidify bonds between teammates. Communication and comprehension have a lot to do with trust, and trust ties directly into performance and teamwork. 

Having everyone speak the same language also helps keep minds clear and keep stress down during a game’s high-intensity moments. Having to ask teammates to repeat themselves, or having them speak in a language that doesn’t come naturally to them, adds another level of stress and pressure to what can already be a tense situation. Being able to speak and be understood the first time — or hear and understand when others speak — helps keep everyone’s minds on the game. 

Beyond the field

Language learning is important when the timer has run out on the game, too. When your team speaks more than one language, it opens up more opportunities for players to be interviewed by foreign media, whether at a post-game press conference or in a more formal interview for a profile. Speaking with journalists can be intimidating on its own — it’s a different mental space than playing on the field, and language learning can give players the confidence they need.

If journalists know players can speak their language, it makes covering the team easier — and if it’s easier to cover, it’s more likely to be written about. Learning a foreign language isn’t just helpful for individual players in these situations, but the end result can boost that player’s profile — along with that of the larger team — on a global scale.   

Language courses like Babbel can also help to overcome cultural barriers and make teams more efficient and bonded. It can go a long way toward bringing multicultural teams together by creating an area of common ground — and by helping teammates and staff understand each other and their cultural backgrounds. 

In the US, many teams face the challenge of supporting Spanish and English-speaking players, coaches, fans, and media. The San Francisco Giants football team uses Babbel to upskill their coaches in both languages to improve communication with the team as well as international media and fans. In the MLB baseball league, the Milwaukee Brewers have adopted Babbel to help their Spanish-speaking players integrate more easily into the primarily English-speaking team, and their scouts use it to improve their Spanish to better engage with players. 

Learning with Babbel 

Babbel’s language-learning platform is perfectly suited for sports teams and clubs to use. Every learner can choose the language(s) they want to learn and the level they want to start at individually. And best of all for sports teams, Babbel is a game changer when it comes to flexibility: Classes can be booked by players at the times that suit them best, whether they’re working around off-season workouts or games during the season. 

Furthermore, Babbel Live, Babbel for Business’s online group lessons format provides a flexible space for teammates to practice in a no-pressure setting. Babbel Intensive, on the other hand, provides 1:1 language learning with a professional teacher. This is specially designed for players, coaches or other employees who want to work toward their individual goals and make fast progress.

The Babbel for Business team can provide you with specific learning paths for the sports industry that feature tailored content, learning tips, and course recommendations to help team members and staff learn what matters most first. 

Strengthening your team’s communication can lead directly to improved performance on the field: When communication is clear, reliable, and natural-feeling for both speakers and listeners, trust and clarity foster team building and bonding. By getting everyone on the same page with Babbel and ensuring that the communication is smooth from the start, teams can take their game to the next level. 


Babbel for Sports Teams

Interested in language learning for your team?
Find out more about how Babbel works for sports teams here.





Lilly Miner, Expert for Digital Learning


Lilly focuses on different learning methods. Whether online learning or blended learning – the motivation of the learners is particularly important to her.

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