The World Cup in Many Languages

The World Cup in Many Languages

by Jennifer Kobrin on July 7, 2010

As the world (and even a few Americans) turns its gaze to South Africa for World Cup 2010, we should be seizing this opportunity to infuse multilingual and globally-conscious themes into schools and summer programs everywhere.

But before we dig into some great ideas, you might want to get into the polyglot spirit by playing this World Cup language quiz from (you can access the quiz by clicking here). Or, take a moment to reflect on the linguistic quagmires that happen when speakers of at least 17 different languages engage in heated competition–the New York Times reported last month that FIFA referees everywhere are now taking crash courses on international swearwords (under FIFA guidelines, players can be penalized for obscenities or lewd gestures).

Now, onto some fun strategies and activities that incorporate the World Cup:

  • How many languages can you use to say World Cup? Using this translated list of the phrase in 36 languages (including Arabic, Chinese, and French) as a start, see how many your kids can learn.
  • Chant along with the crowds! Older kids and teens might be interested in learning cheers from different countries using YouTube videos available for viewing on (you can find them here).  If you work with kids who speak languages other than English, having them teach each other soccer chants can help to incorporate home cultures and learn about new traditions.
  • Have something to say? Get your students’ voices heard. Through World Cup Team Talk, is offering a message board where global audiences can post. Comments will then be translated into 10 different languages using Google.
  • Larry Ferlazzo has organized a comprehensive list with literally hundreds of World Cup-related teaching tools on his blog.
  • Want to learn more? Check out the official World Cup 2010 site at It is available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Arabic, and International Sign Language, in case you were wondering.
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah July 9, 2010 at 1:24 pm

This is great! Part of the magic of the World Cup is that it is a globally shared experience. I love the idea of using that to further language education.


Jennifer Kobrin July 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Thanks, Sarah! I think the fact that the World Cup is an experience that is shared by people from around the world (as much or even more than the olympics) is often lost on Americans– it’s a great opportunity to remind kids why knowing additional languages is important.


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