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Is it unfair to impose English on teams who do not speak English?

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Is it unfair to impose English on teams who do not speak English? Empty Is it unfair to impose English on teams who do not speak English?

Post by kiakahaaotearoa Sun Apr 06, 2014 4:33 pm

Rugby was an English invention. Unlike football, modern rugby refs have an open dialogue with players. The problem for teams whose mother tongue is not English, that communication by the ref is invariably in English. Allain Rolland is the only ref that I can think of that speaks to, or at least can speak to, a team in a language other than English. A ref like Poite can't speak French to his fellow countrymen as he's never allowed to ref France in an international due to potential allegations of bias.

So how much of a disadvantage is a team at if English isn't their mother tongue? Surely you just have to learn a few words based around the ruck. It can't be that difficult? Or is it?

Is a team like Argentina or France forced to pick a player who has a workable command of English in order to maintain an open dialogue with the ref? Imagine if England play Argentina and we have a French ref whose mother is Spanish and speaks flawless French and Spanish but has not the faintest idea about English. He awards Argentina a penalty. The English captain approaches the ref looking for clarification. A game of mime ensues, some frantic sign language and then the thumbs up, shaking of the head and some choice words in English spoken.

How many refs out there who don't speak English are being prevented from rising to the elite panel? What happens when Russia play Spain? Is it impossible to accommodate every team and like pilots landing a plane, it's their responsibility to learn some basic English? Is there a workable solution or is English the default language spoken by refs (even though all the refs might be able to converse in another language freely) and equals opportunities is just a euphemism for Sgt Pepper and the bleedin´ hearts club band?

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Post by Cyril Sun Apr 06, 2014 4:39 pm

kiakahaaotearoa wrote:Allain Rolland is the only ref that I can think of that speaks to, or at least can speak to, a team in a language other than English.
Waynes Barnes can speak French and often issues instructions in French when reffing French sides.

I think it would be ideal if all nations could be issued basic instructions in their mother tongue but practically it's not possible. It's difficult enough to be a ref!

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Post by LondonTiger Sun Apr 06, 2014 4:41 pm

It can be a major issue for two reasons:

1) As you have mentioned when the ref talks to players either explaining what he wants or what he has penalised, so much can be lost in interpretation.

2) Referees talk so damned much now, issuing instructions to players. Having to translate what he is saying can cost that vital fraction of a second that is the differnece between success and failure.


Mind you speaking what is meant to be the same language does not help. Northampton have claimed in the past to misunderstand Wayne Barnes West Country dialect.

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa Sun Apr 06, 2014 4:44 pm

Cyril wrote:
kiakahaaotearoa wrote:Allain Rolland is the only ref that I can think of that speaks to, or at least can speak to, a team in a language other than English.
Waynes Barnes can speak French and often issues instructions in French when reffing French sides.

I think it would be ideal if all nations could be issued basic instructions in their mother tongue but practically it's not possible. It's difficult enough to be a ref!

That explains in 2007 when he said: 'tu as passé le ballon en avant mais je m'en fou parce que j'ai deux millions d'euros ...' and then the audio mysteriously cut out.  Whistle 

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Post by Cyril Sun Apr 06, 2014 4:54 pm

kiakahaaotearoa wrote:
Cyril wrote:
kiakahaaotearoa wrote:Allain Rolland is the only ref that I can think of that speaks to, or at least can speak to, a team in a language other than English.
Waynes Barnes can speak French and often issues instructions in French when reffing French sides.

I think it would be ideal if all nations could be issued basic instructions in their mother tongue but practically it's not possible. It's difficult enough to be a ref!

That explains in 2007 when he said: 'tu as passé le ballon en avant mais je m'en fou parce que j'ai deux millions d'euros ...' and then the audio mysteriously cut out.  Whistle 
Yes, according to you and GE anyway Very Happy

Steve Walsh speaks a form of English. Anti-English.

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Post by welshy824 (new) Sun Apr 06, 2014 4:57 pm

it can be a problem with any sport and actually within british society, i.e. expecting everyone to understand English (but that is a different subject). However after Chinese I believe English is the most spoken language in the world.

I also think the language issue is a much smaller problem now than say 20/30 years ago, as nowadays you get players playing for a variety of club teams in different nations therefore that requires them to understand the native language, and also especially in Europe, English (rightly or wrongly) is a compulsory aspect of their education and as a result many Europeans I have met have overall a very good understanding of English and many speak it as their second language

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Post by Cyril Sun Apr 06, 2014 5:00 pm

welshy, Spanish is the next highest spoken language after Chinese. English is third.

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa Sun Apr 06, 2014 5:07 pm

English is the most widely spoken on the internet after bull  censored it.

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Post by bedfordwelsh Sun Apr 06, 2014 5:10 pm

Cyril wrote:
kiakahaaotearoa wrote:Allain Rolland is the only ref that I can think of that speaks to, or at least can speak to, a team in a language other than English.
Waynes Barnes can speak French and often issues instructions in French when reffing French sides.

I think it would be ideal if all nations could be issued basic instructions in their mother tongue but practically it's not possible. It's difficult enough to be a ref!

Nigel talks to teams in Welsh on occasions lol
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Post by Biltong Sun Apr 06, 2014 5:39 pm

Well, our refs can all speak Afrikaans. Teach those who can't speak english to understand Afrikaans. Wink
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Post by kiakahaaotearoa Sun Apr 06, 2014 5:44 pm

We can't teach people to speak with their fists BB.  Run 

 Sorry 

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Post by Barney McGrew did it Sun Apr 06, 2014 6:14 pm

Eh? Surely the opposite is true, and having 1 language is an advantage to everyone. How else? - refs that speak every language?; refs that only ref games where they speak the language of both sides playing? Good luck finding someone when Georgia play Fiji in the RWC (or the Wales/England game Smile).

Mind you, I guess some refs are more fluent in double-dutch than English.
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Post by Mr Fishpaste Sun Apr 06, 2014 6:56 pm

Biltong wrote:Well, our refs can all speak Afrikaans. Teach those who can't speak english to understand Afrikaans. Wink

Ja, like Jannie Du Plessis' fairly lengthy conversation with a ref the other week about scrumming...the TV producer/censor obviously didn't speak Afrikaans however, because there were some words in that conversation that were not really suitable for family viewing

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Post by Mr Fishpaste Sun Apr 06, 2014 6:58 pm

kiakahaaotearoa wrote:We can't teach people to speak with their fists BB.  Run 

 Sorry 

I believe that's called sign-language (and if you watched the Mandela Memorial, you'll know how well we speak that!)


In general, I do agree with your sentiment Kia. If you are an English mother-tongue speaker, you can speak in a more nuanced, subtle fashion to the ref. Second-language speakers often come across as blunt and/or rude and are less likely to be able to state their case without upsetting the ref.

On the other hand, if the ref doesn't speak your language, at least you can vent your frustration about the ref without him knowing what's being said!


Last edited by Mr Fishpaste on Sun Apr 06, 2014 7:02 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa Sun Apr 06, 2014 7:00 pm

Laugh He spoke it just fine. It's the rest of them who have to lift their game.

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Post by Biltong Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:08 pm

kiakahaaotearoa wrote:We can't teach people to speak with their fists BB.  Run 

 Sorry 

Think about it, when you speak with your fists, you really don't need to say a lot Wink
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Post by kiakahaaotearoa Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:11 pm

Quite right. You let your fists do the talking. But what language are they speaking?

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Post by Biltong Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:15 pm

Afrikaans!
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Post by kiakahaaotearoa Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:25 pm

Lakke slaap skat.

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Post by Biltong Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:35 pm

Hahaha. Nag ou Grote.
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Post by kiakahaaotearoa Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:38 pm

That brings new meaning to the term fisting...

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Post by Biltong Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:50 pm

Very Happy

The saying "Nag ou Grote" is actually a famous saying in the Afrikaans community. There was a guy by the name of Zandberg Jansen who in the eighties and nineties analysed Currie Cup matches, Dr Danie Craven was a highly respected rugby player, administrator, coach etc whom Zandberg called "Grote" (a sign of respect to a big man in SA rugby)

At the end of every analysis he would end with "Nag ou Grote"

Good night Sir Craven.
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Post by rainbow-warrior Mon Apr 07, 2014 8:31 am

Nigel Owens first language is Welsh, so it's good he talks so much in English. He also has a good command of French and Italian. You could also have Argentinian players who only speak Spanish and Welsh, as explained in a post not so long ago.
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Post by Dontheman Mon Apr 07, 2014 9:52 am

Thought the whistle did the talking and a set of hand signals. Can't wait for the waterboy to run on with a folding table chairs teapot cups and saucers etc. isn't there getting to be too much chat? Don't seem to need it in other sports.

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Post by Dontheman Mon Apr 07, 2014 9:53 am

Thought the whistle did the talking and a set of hand signals. Can't wait for the waterboy to run on with a folding table chairs teapot cups and saucers etc. isn't there getting to be too much chat? Don't seem to need it in other sports.

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:12 am

You obviously dont watch the game with the sound up. Ref speaks more than the halfbacks. And do you think when the ref is saying to the captain you need to have a talk with your players about such and such he is communicating in clicks and whistles like a pod of dolphins. Most English speaking people don't know hard it is to communicate or listen to another language because they don't speak another language.

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Post by beshocked Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:24 am

Surely it is an advantage to France for example that they get the same ref who speaks French - e.g. Alain Rolland?

Means they should understand the mannerisms of the ref more than the opponent.

Every ref is different.

As for English - most of the top rugby countries speak English till that changes.....

In international rugby only France speak French. Compare that to the top tier countries that speak English.

Surely if a ref wants an advantage over a fellow ref then they could learn the language of a country - e.g. if ref X learned French he would likely get more games involving France.

Perhaps refs should be given language courses if that's a route you want to go down.

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:33 am

I'm not suggesting any solution. As I and others have pointed out, it's impractical to solve the issue. I just wanted to point out for non English speaking countries it can put teams at a disadvantage. Imagine an Argentinian ref who couldn't speak English and all communication had to be in Argentinian Spanish. All the teams would be up in arms.

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Post by fa0019 Mon Apr 07, 2014 11:04 am

Whats more important???

Having a referee who can explain things in someones own language or have a good referee?

You don't need to become fluent in English to understand certain words

Things like

holding on.
not rolling away.
dangerous tackle.

Referees being professional now, if they're looking to be tier 1 refs they should learn French and Spanish to a point they can converse with the players. It should be part of the training.

Anyhow I think some players like being perceived as unable to communicate with the ref... "sorry boss, I didn't understand you". I remember playing in a match where the majority of the players on the opposition were French... the ref was being sworn at left right and centre and he did nothing... then when one of our players decided to join in he was instantly penalised for ungentlemanly conduct.

Players too need to learn the languages of the game... Ben Kay was apparently taught Afrikaans just to read the boks lineout. Perhaps that was the diff in 2003??? It all counts.

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Post by rainbow-warrior Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:16 pm

We are being a little insular in our thoughts. There are 101 teams in the IRB rankings, each team within the competition deserves to be understood doncha think?
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Post by munkian Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:25 pm

How many of that Toulon team could actually speak French ?
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Post by whocares Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:48 pm

French professional players should just learn to speak english full stop. I know it is a big ask but those guys have time for that.

referees should be maybe a bit more patient towards non english speaking players and speak slowly (and in some cases try to adopt a different accent).

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Post by munkian Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:52 pm

whocares wrote:French professional players should just learn to speak english full stop. I know it is a big ask but those guys have time for that.

referees should be maybe a bit more patient towards non english speaking players and speak slowly (and in some cases try to adopt a different accent).


Slowly AND louder  Wink 
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Post by Scrumpy Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:58 pm

Is it unfair to impose English on teams who do not speak English?

No, we ruled the world so it makes sense. thumbsup
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Post by rainbow-warrior Mon Apr 07, 2014 1:40 pm

Scrumpy wrote:Is it unfair to impose English on teams who do not speak English?

No, we ruled the world so it makes sense.  thumbsup

Hohoho and look at you now, a suburb of Poland...good going.
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Post by lostinwales Mon Apr 07, 2014 1:53 pm

rainbow-warrior wrote:Nigel Owens first language is Welsh, so it's good he talks so much in English.  He also has a good command of French and Italian.  You could also have Argentinian players who only speak Spanish and Welsh, as explained in a post not so long ago.

I think you will find that despite the money put in by the Welsh Assembly to support the survival of the Welsh language in Argentina the odds of finding an Argentinian in a rugby team who speaks any welsh is remote. You might have a better chance with German.

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Post by Geordie Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:08 pm

kiakahaaotearoa wrote:I'm not suggesting any solution. As I and others have pointed out, it's impractical to solve the issue. I just wanted to point out for non English speaking countries it can put teams at a disadvantage. Imagine an Argentinian ref who couldn't speak English and all communication had to be in Argentinian Spanish. All the teams would be up in arms.

Yes they probably would be.

Is it seen as similar to the business world where English is the business language...so is it the sporting language aswell?


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Post by Geordie Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:09 pm

rainbow-warrior wrote:
Scrumpy wrote:Is it unfair to impose English on teams who do not speak English?

No, we ruled the world so it makes sense.  thumbsup

Hohoho and look at you now, a suburb of Poland...good going.

Erm....i dont live in a suburb of Poland...but thanks anyway...

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Post by kiakahaaotearoa Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:16 pm

Probably more so GF that the sports are English inventions. Somehow rugby has had more appeal than cricket.

Football has the advantage of having refs from different languages. The top ref used to be a bald Italian. How many decent refs who don't speak English are we missing out on?

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Post by Geordie Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:24 pm

Probably quite a few as the standards of ref in rugby at the moment is decidely poor in my opinion.

Rugby may struggle to change away from English speaking officials though. So whats the answer...insisting that potential referees from non english speaking nations learn English as they're training to become refs?

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Post by offload Tue Apr 08, 2014 12:07 pm

It's like dog training - no point worrying about the finer points of being a guide dog if you're still struggling with SIT and STAY.

When we have a panel of international referees that know the laws and apply them consistently - then we can worry about a bit of language training.
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Post by ChequeredJersey Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:11 pm

The international world has always worked on having a common language. It's been Latin, French and for a while English. It's not ideal for those whom this disadvantages but it's unavoidable and as long as the captains of the sides and the referees can fluently communicate I think that is ok. It's a bit unfair on the French and Argentine sides, but the majority of rugby playing nations have English as a first or near first language, and the French at least are usually far better at English than we are at French. Also a lot of English players can speak something like French, I know Marler is fluent for example, so if the situation posited above took place, we'd still manage. We can't expect referees to be superman and learn every language under the sun and outside of the English speaking sides there is almost no overlap between first languages so any other solution is utterly impractical if we keep neutral refs. The other thing to beat in mind is that speaking a language that neither the referee nor the other side can speak can be a big advantage in terms of on field communication within the team
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Post by nganboy Thu Apr 10, 2014 12:52 pm

Air Traffic Controllers and Pilots around the world have to be able to do their job in English.
Just saying...
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Post by fa0019 Thu Apr 10, 2014 1:54 pm

ChequeredJersey wrote:The international world has always worked on having a common language. It's been Latin, French and for a while English. It's not ideal for those whom this disadvantages but it's unavoidable and as long as the captains of the sides and the referees can fluently communicate I think that is ok. It's a bit unfair on the French and Argentine sides, but the majority of rugby playing nations have English as a first or near first language, and the French at least are usually far better at English than we are at French. Also a lot of English players can speak something like French, I know Marler is fluent for example, so if the situation posited above took place, we'd still manage. We can't expect referees to be superman and learn every language under the sun and outside of the English speaking sides there is almost no overlap between first languages so any other solution is utterly impractical if we keep neutral refs. The other thing to beat in mind is that speaking a language that neither the referee nor the other side can speak can be a big advantage in terms of on field communication within the team

What do pro referees do other than officiate games?

Do they work 40 hr weeks on the job? Sure they travel a lot but so does many salesman, consultants etc and they still put in 40hrs+ on the job. I don't think it would be a problem to expect a baisc understanding of Spanish, French, English and even Afrikaans.

Not to officiate but to give basic commands such as roll away, holding on etc. Collective commands to both sides can be in English but if a Argentine is holding on.... speak to him in Spanish. Learning a language is not that difficult if you have time and dedication.

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Post by lostinwales Thu Apr 10, 2014 1:58 pm

nganboy wrote:Air Traffic Controllers and Pilots around the world have to be able to do their job in English.
Just saying...

They also need a certain amount of intelligence to do their job  Very Happy 

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Post by fa0019 Thu Apr 10, 2014 1:59 pm

lostinwales wrote:
nganboy wrote:Air Traffic Controllers and Pilots around the world have to be able to do their job in English.
Just saying...

They also need a certain amount of intelligence to do their job  Very Happy 

As long as referees weren't previously front row forwards then I don't think it will be a problem Wink

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Post by Guest Thu Apr 10, 2014 3:10 pm

fa0019 wrote:
ChequeredJersey wrote:The international world has always worked on having a common language. It's been Latin, French and for a while English. It's not ideal for those whom this disadvantages but it's unavoidable and as long as the captains of the sides and the referees can fluently communicate I think that is ok. It's a bit unfair on the French and Argentine sides, but the majority of rugby playing nations have English as a first or near first language, and the French at least are usually far better at English than we are at French. Also a lot of English players can speak something like French, I know Marler is fluent for example, so if the situation posited above took place, we'd still manage. We can't expect referees to be superman and learn every language under the sun and outside of the English speaking sides there is almost no overlap between first languages so any other solution is utterly impractical if we keep neutral refs. The other thing to beat in mind is that speaking a language that neither the referee nor the other side can speak can be a big advantage in terms of on field communication within the team

What do pro referees do other than officiate games?

Do they work 40 hr weeks on the job? Sure they travel a lot but so does many salesman, consultants etc and they still put in 40hrs+ on the job. I don't think it would be a problem to expect a baisc understanding of Spanish, French, English and even Afrikaans.

Not to officiate but to give basic commands such as roll away, holding on etc. Collective commands to both sides can be in English but if a Argentine is holding on.... speak to him in Spanish. Learning a language is not that difficult if you have time and dedication.

'Learning a language is not that difficult if you have time and dedication.'

I used to think the same until I discovered how often the native users of a language can't understand someone who doesn't actually live in their country who - confusingly - doesn't realise they can't understand him!  I'm sitting here picturing, as an example, the faces of Argentine forwards in the heat of a game being told to "roll away" in what a referee from Scotland thinks is correctly-accented Spanish as understood by Argentinians - cue the ref blowing his whistle and frowns all round!

The answer surely is for national unions to ensure that all their international players learn the most common refereeing instructions spoken and heard in the same language with the same intonation - and for the international referees' governing bodies to do the same.  If not English, maybe Esperanto.

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Post by fa0019 Thu Apr 10, 2014 3:20 pm

this isn't the days of Allo Allo. The number of refs that officiate in tier 1 matches i.e. 6N & RC is less then a dozen. I think we can train these guys up to have conversational English, French and Spanish (South American Spanish) which is good enough for locals to understand clearly.

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Post by whocares Thu Apr 10, 2014 3:33 pm

I'd rather have them trained in reffing the scrum and breakdown better (or at least more consistently). they can always learn sign language to communicate with props later Wink

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Post by lostinwales Thu Apr 10, 2014 4:15 pm

whocares wrote:I'd rather have them trained in reffing the scrum and breakdown better (or at least more consistently). they can always learn sign language to communicate with props later Wink

I guess we could always equip refs with cattle prods?

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