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05.01.2009 10:00

Barça speaks a lot of languages

Sergi Nogueras

The 24 players in Barça’s first team speak 17 different languages between them. Gudjohnsen, with a total of eight, is the most gifted linguist.

UNESCO declared 2008 to be the International Year of Languages to highlight the need to use and protect languages and especially those at risk of disappearing. Languages are a means of intercultural communication and a good example of that is the Barça first team squad.

24 players with 11 different nationalities

18-12-08_WEB_EQUIPO_03.jpgThe 24 members of Barça’s first team squad represent 11 different nationalities. Apart from the home-grown talent there are also players from Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, France, Byelorussia, Iceland, Mali, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Mexico. Just as with any other group of people, communication is fundamental and with all of those nationalities the languages used are quite varied.

Plus many of Barça’s players have also played in a number of countries, which further increases the number of languages up to 17 in the first team. Apart from Spanish, Catalan, Icelandic, Portuguese, French and Russian, squad members also speak or have a basic level in English, Italian, German, Dutch, Danish, Serbian, Croatian, Greek, Creole, Bambara and Diola.

Varied communication

071108_entrenament_x16x.jpgAll of this linguistic and cultural mix and the different nationalities of the players mean that they often communicate using a range of languages. For example, academy players obviously speak to each other in Catalan or Spanish. Hleb and Touré are a curious case, as they often converse in Russian which the Ivory Coast player picked up during his time in the Ukraine. Márquez speaks in English with Gudjohnsen and Henry because that’s the language they first spoke in, while he uses French (having come to Barça from Monaco) with the African players and Abidal.

Henry and Abidal sometimes speak in Creole. This language is spoken in Martinique and Guadalupe, where the players’ families originally came from. However, the most unusual case is undoubtedly Keita and Touré. The Mali player speaks Bambara, one of the most important languages in his country, while Touré is proficient in Diola which is spoken where he is from in Ivory Coast. The two languages have quite a lot of overlap which means the two can understand each other.
Barça speaks a lot of languages
The linguists
The best linguist in the team is undoubtedly Eidur Gudjohnsen. In addition to his mother tongue, the Icelander speaks Spanish, English, Dutch and German (having learnt the latter two during his time at PSV Eindhoven). He also understands Catalan, French and Danish, which he studied at school as a compulsory subject since Iceland is a former Danish colony. He learnt his French in Belgium where he lived when his father played for Anderlecht. Not far behind comes Thierry Henry; apart from French, he also speaks Italian from his time at Juventus, Spanish, English and Creole in addition to having an excellent understanding of Catalan. Then there is Sylvinho, who alongside Portuguese, English and Spanish is now starting to use Catalan as well when talking to the press.

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