Tuesday, September 02, 2008

LPGA - Language Police

Okay, I haven't been to the blog for a while, but I'm shocked not to see any comment on the LPGA's (women's professional golf tour) looming decision to enforce an "English proficiency test" for all tour members. Players that can't pass the test will be "suspended" from the tour! This conjures up ethnic studies images of S.I. Hayakawa and the English Only movement. My favorite line is when the LPGA commissioner claims she is shocked by the negative reaction, saying, " We thought this was pro-international." Who needs globalization when you can have hegemony? Arguments are made that it would help with American sponsors (ever think of getting some Korean sponsors?)

Many commentators note that international players have dominated the tour of late, winning 19 of the last 24 tournaments, particularly Asian players, especially from South Korea that boasts 45 players on tour. As an educator of English Language Learners, I'm fascinated by what this test will look like. Is it simply oral? Is there a written or reading portion? Will they have different versions so players won't just cheat or learn the answers like DMV test? What qualifies for proficiency? Will the vocabulary section be confined simply to golf nomenclature or encompass all sports cliches: "I was seeing the ball well today," "It's anyone's tournament." Or will it be to the level of including must-have Tiger-like idioms like, "I've been waiting for some putts to drop and for the ball to see the hole" or "the course was a monster today, made players make some difficult choices on the risk-reward scale, luckily I was able work my high fade right to left on the tough 17th dogleg?"


Anonymous said...

Why is this so bad?

English is the language of the particular game/sport. If you can't communicate proficiently in that language then how can you expect to interact with officials and other players?

When I went for my Black Belt in Tae Know Do I had to take a test on Korean terminology and writing. How is that a bad thing? I fail to see anything bad about it. If I wasn't proficient in the language of the sport I wouldn't be able to communicate with the officials and other martial artists.

Anonymous said...

We did a WTF post on Kimchi mamas. hehe. Yeah, seriously, WTF eh?

Anonymous said...

dear anonymous above. um. the difference is that you were not required to be proficient or conversational in Korean. just know some words and terms. =)

Anonymous said...

I had to be able to converse with a ref or official in the language of the sport if there was an issue/dispute. Seemed fair to me.

Anonymous said...

Proficiency in the language in which you wish to compete should be mandatory. Seriously.

If I were to compete in Japan. I would have to learn Japanese. Honestly, if they told me I couldn't compete unless I did I would STILL learn.

Personally, I can understand how one could take that offensively or even find it unfair but if done CORRECTLY (that's the key here and with some leeway) it could be quite beneficial.

Hmm, if we are going to do it for one sport we should do it for all across the world.

It would make us more understood individuals and give the proper respect to the country in which we are competing in.

But, the same goes for those officials. They should have to learn at least general phrases from another country. It's not that hard.

Why are people so afraid to communicate with each other? What is so wrong with learning another language?

I guess I just don't understand because I fancy myself a linguist.

Mama Nabi said...


I think they should make all of them learn both Dutch and Gaelic... you know, golf being a linguistic sport and all.

Henri said...


Anonymous said...

Excellent point mama nabi!

thisislarry said...

WTF? Why does athletecism require a single language?

Imposing cultural constraints on a sport is the kind of dorkiness that draws me away from Sports (see Mr Maestro's post on FF).

Have the olympics not shown us that people from all over the globe can kick ass at athletic events?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Interesting link ka_jun, all the points which call under language on that page seem spot on.

# Language

* Accent discrimination
An employer may not base a decision on an employee's foreign accent unless the accent materially interferes with job performance.
Can't communicate with refs/officials or other participants .... seems like material interference to me.
* English fluency
A fluency requirement is only permissible if required for the effective performance of the position for which it is imposed.
Again effective performance would include being able to communicate with the relevant involved parties.
* English-only rules
English-only rules must be adopted for nondiscriminatory reasons. An English-only rule may be used if it is needed to promote the safe or efficient operation of the employer's business.
Third time's a charm.

Anonymous said...

Trust me, if they wanted to litigate, they could go somewhere with this.

Mr. Maestro said...

Who died and proclaimed English to be the language of golf? What if this was taken to every sport? A third of the NBA, at least a third of baseball would be gone. I thought the idea of sports (out of the Olympic ideal) was to get the best players from all over and let them compete fairly in something that was universal. I don't see why language should pose a barrier and golf isnt even a team sport and there are no referees.

Language laws have been used to exclude "undesired" people for about as long as there has been ethnic/racial conflict. In the U.S., from Indian laws, to Jim Crow to Chinese railworkers, this has a nasty history of dividing people or unfairly discriminating.

Mama Nabi said...


LPGA took it back. I still say they should all learn at the very least Gaelic. Slainte, henri.