Multilingualism in a Football Team: The Case of IFK Mariehamn

  • Håkan Ringbom
Part of the Second Language Learning and Teaching book series (SLLT)


Until recently multilingualism in sports has not been much investigated. This paper deals with multilingualism in a football club, IFK Mariehamn, in the monolingually Swedish Åland Islands between Finland and Sweden. In a questionnaire distributed to the team, special emphasis was placed on language problems encountered by the players, who have eight different L1s representing eight different nationalities. The main languages of communication within the team are Swedish and English, while Finnish, the dominant language used in the Finnish league is hardly used at all, except between the Finnish members of the team. The language used in training sessions was Swedish, while the main language of communication off the field was English. During matches and training sessions, the main language problem for the team was that there were two players who did not know Swedish and had very little knowledge of English. These linguistic shortcomings were at least partly due to players arriving late in the season, when they had not had the time to learn the restricted football vocabulary in Swedish. As their English, too, was scrappy, misunderstandings due to language problems could occur on the field.


Training Session Target Language Language Problem Football Club Dominant Language 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Many thanks to Thomas Fonsell and all the IFK players for fruitful collaboration.


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  7. It may further be mentioned that two linguists from Göteborg, Sölve Ohlander and Gunnar Bergh, are working on a football dictionary in eight languages, which is scheduled to be published towards the end of 2012.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Åbo Akademi Universit yMariehamnFinland

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