8:00am Thursday 31st May 2012
Sir – Since the announcement of Roy Hodgson as the new England manager most of the media seem to have concentrated on his ability to be fluent in five or six languages and a little less so in three or four others.
It is the word fluent that bothers me. I believe it means ‘able to understand’, ‘speak effortlessly and comprehend all aspects of a language’, whereas I assume he has picked up enough of a language to speak in ‘football terminology’ to the members of various foreign teams he has managed over the years. Before retirement, our family business (among other things) involved ships’ supplies to foreign vessels visiting the commercial docks of Grimsby and nearby Immingham’s huge dock and oil terminals, as well as Grimsby fish docks. Until more recent times, the crews of many vessels did not have English, so it was imperative that we all spoke Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish, Faroese and Swedish, and to a lesser degree French, Italian, Finnish, Flemish and Greek, but none of us would confess to being fluent, although one or two came close, and were part of the teams at the end of the war seeking out collaborators and the like in ex-occupied Europe.
So, if ‘football speak’ can be classed as ‘fluent’, we seriously did not realise we were ‘super-fluent’! I might be wrong about Roy Hodgson’s talents of foreign languages — if so, I will gladly apologise.
Bernard Greenberg, Oxford
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