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Echoes

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Hello,

Yesterday I posted a comment on some other boards dedicated to cycling. I won’t give any name, so it’s not from me that you’d learn it’s the forum of Cyclingnews.com. It’s about the fact that Greg Van Avermaet was asked to respond to an interview partly in Dutch and partly in English after his win at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.  The reactions to it seemed to have been adhominems, and caricatures (into some sort of fascism, conspis or whatever).

I indeed have strong opinions about this. Yes, I can’t accept the fact that athletes be requested to partly grant an interview in English unless it’s his mother tongue, least of all, a local rider. And I’m saying this while I’m trained in Germanic philology (English & Dutch; I’m Walloon). Sometimes, I feel guilty for being so fluent in English, I have the feeling that I’ve been alienated from my own fellow countrymen (by which I mean the common people who have not studied language) and have adopted the language of globalization. This is not an attack against English natives but in this country, many riffraffs used the little basic knowledge of English they have in order to show off and pretend they are “tough guys” while as a matter of fact they neither can speak English nor French (re: Walloon) nor Dutch (re: Flemings). I think it’s essential to be able to speak one’s language correctly before learning another one but with the present-day globalist situation you have to learn English, at the expence of some rich command of your own language…

Besides, I’ll always remember a professor of didactics of mine at uni who gave us his opinion on the right for an athlete to express himself in his mother tongue. What is expected of an athlete is not good command of a second/foreign language but is good sporting performances. He was absolutely right (and he’s an experienced philologist himself!). The French journos have traditionally always been so convinced that any athlete in the world should be able to speak French. So even if Van Avermaet has good command of English, you have to let him speak in his mother tongue. But making him speak in English in his own country, that’s pretty bold. Because a vast majority of English-speaking athletes don’t bother to learn a foreign language, they don’t need to.

Some posters here know that I can’t accept the idea that Rai or Sporza already showed all their feed graphic in English for their International section. Both broadcasters are supposed to be public, so it should be their mission to promote their own language abroad.

If that sounds Fascist to you, then be it because I won’t change my mind about it. I love my country and believe that loving one’s country helps you love the others but I don’t think my country is everything. I don’t make it an absolute, that’s why I don’t consider myself a nationalist. But loving one’s country and the language(s) of one’s country, so our mother tongue, is healthy, whether you like it or not.
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  • "Paris-Roubaix is the biggest cycling race in the world, bigger than the Tour de France, bigger than any other bike race" (Sir Bradley Wiggins)

    Flo

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    I agree athletes should be allowed to only do interviews in their native language but I'm guessing they do not mind answering a few questions in English. (Unless they don't speak it at all, there are a few :P )
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    Joelsim

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    I agree with you, and it's very sad that the English are so poor at languages. I'm very envious of you guys here who speak my language fluently, we simply don't have the requirement to do that and so it's very low on the list with schools and parents.

    Unfortunately with regard to Sporza and GVA requests, as always, it's down to money/appeal/coverage.

    It's all wrong, but that's how things work.

     :(
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  • Armchair Cyclist

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    Presumably the interviewer knows that Van Avermaet speaks sufficient English to at least utter the predictable platitudes (I'm delighted, I couldn't have done it without my team-mates, it was tough but I was confident) uttered by every winner.  He may well have been asked if he was willing to be interviewed in English first. 

    Yes, it might be considered unfortunate that one language has a near-global hegemony that gives it a commercial priority over the mother tongue of both interviewer and interviewee, but they both know the commercial demands upon them, and are pragmatic enough to do what the interests of the channel, the team and the race organisation require.

    It is not about what Van Avermaet has a right to, it is about what he has a willingness to do. At the top level, professionalism is not just about performance and contribution to the team, it is about responsibility to the sport, and Van Avermaet is meeting that responsibility.
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  • « Last Edit: February 29, 2016, 07:19 by Armchair Cyclist »

    Claudio Cappuccino

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    I am having trouble finding 'the moral of the story' in the OP by Echoes to be honest. Is it truly ''I can’t accept the idea that Rai or Sporza already showed all their feed graphic in English for their International section''?

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    I'm not aware of what prompted this thread beyond the interview itself but perhaps the question should be directed at the race organisers or whoever conducted it. The preface of a couple of English questions has become de rigueur in the UCI's own race coverage.

    I have seen enough messy live broadcasts - the ones where you 'accidentally' see the moments before the interview as well as the interview itself - to know that GVA will have been told first, so I sincerely doubt it was an unexpected ambush.

    The rest is, I would assume, about commercial interests. However, I also think that the deep sensitivities around language that exist in some quarters just aren't shared elsewhere.
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  • Cycling is a Europe thing only and I only watch from Omloop on cause I am cool and sh*t
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    AG

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    I didnt realise it was an issue that people cared about.

    I have seen riders give interviews in a lot of different languages (I have often seen Phil G give interviews in French, Dutch and English basically one after the other)

    I am grateful for any rider who can speak English.  Its not an expectation - but its nice because my lack of language skills means that I am limited woth some riders
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  • cj2002

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    I'd rather a rider gives an interview in a second language that s/he speaks fluently, than have to deal with a commentator try and do simultaneous translation.

    If the Sporza interviews are part of a global broadcast package, paid for by Eurosport and whoever else, it's not unreasonable to expect some "international" coverage[1].

    For example - in F1 (where there is a single commercial rights holder who controls every aspect of the broadcast during the race), the podium interviews are always conducted in English. So it is not unreasonable that you end up with a situation in which Nico Rosberg *de, Kimi Raikkonen *fi and Felipe Massa *br make up the podium at the Grand Prix of Spain *es, and are interviewed in English *gb by a journalist from TF1 *fr.

    It's part of becoming a "global" sport, I guess...
     1. Whatever your views on whether English being the de facto global language is a good thing or not - and I can see both sides of the argument, it does kind of hold that status
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    Echoes

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    The cycling that I love ought never to become like Formula 1. This is really a sport of elite where indeed the competitors have always spoken English before speaking their native language. It would be my biggest nightmare.

    I've seen the Omloop for over 20 years, it's always had an international field but it's only in recent years that I see riders being interviewed in English rather than in Dutch or in their mother tongue. I mean even Flecha once was interviewed in English while he speaks better French than English and French is an official language in Belgium. Cancellara was also interviewed in English. Cancellara can hardly speak English. It's pretty poor English. They could also as well have interviewed him in French which is a language in both Belgium and Switzerland, or in German as it's his mother tongue and the language of a small minority in Belgium, plus a very close language to Dutch but no, English, always English. I mean Rodrigo Beenkens of the RTBF once noted: there are three languages in Belgium, four of them in Switzerland, but you interview him in English which isn't an official language in any of them. About a year or two ago, I saw an interview of Julien Taramarcaz in English on Sporza. He had just retired from a race. The interviewer can speak French and Julien is a Romandian Swiss, his English is very poor.

    You, folks, don't realise how hard it is, intellectually, to express ourselves in a foreign language. I've studied English & Dutch specifically, practice them on a more or less daily basis and yet it's still hard. So I can figure that for an athlete it should be even harder than for me. All that an athlete can tell in a foreign language is banalities.

    If I see an Italian rider winning an Italian race, the least I would expect is him to respond to interviews in Italian only. That would mean I wouldn't be able to understand anything but I'd have to accept that. Why should we always have him answer in a language that we can speak? Is that not egomaniac? Boundaries exist, Italy has its own culture, Belgium has its culture whether you like it or not, whether I like it or not.

    Besides, the official language of the UCI is still French but I doubt that it should now be required for an American rider who wins the ToC to have an interview partly conducted in French. What would you folk say?

    It's about commercial demands and interests? Yes of course, I understood that. It's exactly what I'm rebelling against.

    Yes I hate to see feed graphics in English, for non-Anglophone races. For Italian race, I'd love to see the "Inseguitori" or "ultimo chilometro" back. I don't speak Italian but it's not hard to understand that "inseguitori" means chasing group. Turning the feed graphic into English is a patriotic high treason, in my opinion. Betraying one's fatherland just for money. It's something I never will understand.
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  • Capt_Cavman

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    And there English speaking riders who conduct interviews in French. Wiggins did too.

    If you can offer up the platitudes yourself, it is better to do so. Just in case the translator decides to add meaning that you didn't intend.

    Does anyone remember Claudio Ranieri's interpreter when he started at Chelsea? He clearly couldn't speak a word of Italian and just answered the questions himself.
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  • AG

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    It's about commercial demands and interests? Yes of course, I understood that. It's exactly what I'm rebelling against.



    seriously?


    Just because you live in Belgium and can enjoy the best of cycling on your doorstep ... doesnt mean the rest of the world can.  The millions of other people accross the world can only enjoy - can only grow to love, be encouraged and inspired to try the sport and find new talent - if there is more coverage.  If the TV networks cover the sport ... if commentators interview riders and those interviews are shown here.

    For many parts of the world, that will only happen if interviews happen in English.   If not, the commentators make it up - or if the interest in the races isnt developed, the networks simply dont show the races.


    More interviews, wider range of languages spoken, more respect given to the riders and the globalisation that you are rebelling against is the very thing that allows me to be able to watch at all.

    So I will continue to be glad that the riders who are able to speak a variety of languages agree to answer questions in as many of them as possible.
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  • Echoes

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    What would you say AG if Gerro after winning the Tour Down Under, was forced to answer partly in French by an Aussie commentator? I can speak french, I guess, he's raced for AG2R. And there are still a lot of cycling fans with good command of French and who cannot speak English. And French is supposed to be the official language in cycling.

    Seriously, I've watched races in languages I can't understand, plenty of time. We, viewer, should also have to adapt. You can't always get what you want.

    Besides, I'd quote one of your old post AG:

    Its interesting

    I get the 'being proud' thing though.   I feel as though I have contributed a great deal to my country, and I am proud to have contributed when we do something good or that I see as worthwhile (giving aid, helping others etc - not that we have done much of that lately).   I get that military personal feel proud that they have defended a way of life, a freedom, ideals that they believe in ... proud that they have tried to protect others from a regime that is cruel or corrupt.   Its not always the case - I am not that naive - but the basic concept is what I am talking about.

    It gets WAY out of hand, and way overdone though. 

    Australia is a fairly racist country, which I dont really understand given that Australia has grown and developed purely on immigration from other countries.  Flag waving here is very bogan ... stupid drunk idiots waving the flag and doing stupid things on Australia Day ...

    Would you grant me the right to also "be proud" of my country because I feel as though I've contributed a great deal to it, as well. Don't we also have the right to defend a way of life, an ideal, freedoms that we believe in. Or does that only apply to your own?  :(
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  • AG

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    It doesnt apply only to my own.

    Of course you should be proud of your country.   And you should be proud that Belgium is seen as the home of the classics ... that these races are loved by cycling fans accross the world.  That Belgians do it so well ...

    If Gerro was interviewed in French after the Tour Down Under - I would be absolutely fine with that.  If they broadcast it in French to France, in Flemish to Belgium and Spanish to Spain ... and interviewed him in every language afterwards.


    The thing is Echoes - English media will simply not show interviews etc that people in the country they are showing to cannot understand.    While I - a devoted cycling fan - might watch the Italian National Road Race broadcast in Italian and think its fabulous .... most of the viewing public will not.    And therefore,  English language countries will simply not show the race.

    There are a lot of things about the globalisation of cycling that are deplorable. That I agree with you about. That lessen the sport and its fabulous history.   I just dont think that the language of the interviews is one of them.
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  • Echoes

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    The thing is Echoes - English media will simply not show interviews etc that people in the country they are showing to cannot understand.    While I - a devoted cycling fan - might watch the Italian National Road Race broadcast in Italian and think its fabulous .... most of the viewing public will not.    And therefore,  English language countries will simply not show the race.

    I'm stunned that you are saying this and don't see it as a problem. Just baffled! I mean you simply saying that Anglophone media have their own demand, their own diva whims. But who do they think they are ... You realise what the world would be everybody had the same demands ...
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  • Kiwirider

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    Besides, the official language of the UCI is still French but I doubt that it should now be required for an American rider who wins the ToC to have an interview partly conducted in French. What would you folk say?

    No, AN official language, not THE official language is French ... Their use of English is unsurprising given that one of the countries who established the UCI was the US

    14 April 1900: Foundation of the Union Cycliste Internationale by the Belgian, French, Italian, Swiss and United States National Federations in Paris (FRA).
    (From UCI website)


    You, folks, don't realise how hard it is, intellectually, to express ourselves in a foreign language. I've studied English & Dutch specifically, practice them on a more or less daily basis and yet it's still hard. So I can figure that for an athlete it should be even harder than for me. All that an athlete can tell in a foreign language is banalities.

    You utter snob! And that's the polite version of what I want to say to you!

    Why do you assume that, just because someone isn't as formally educated as you may be, they lack the capacity to converse fluently in a second language?!
    That is frail intellectual snobbery at some of its worst - and reflects a significant lack of understanding of the world that many people live in.

    Living in Quebec, I can tell you that there are fluently bilingual people at all levels of society - many of whom you would struggle to discern as either native anglo or franco. And the allophone population around Montreal - those with neither French nor English as their native tongue - are often even more linguistically capable. It is not uncommon to hear conversations where the speakers alternate between two or three languages. I do that myself and, while I can live and work in French, I am hardly a linguistic expert.

    And don't play that "you folks don't understand" card. You're not the only bilingual person here - so there are lots of us who understand the challenge of becoming sufficiently conversant in another language. I'm not going to speak for others here, but personally, the challenge of doing so is something that I relish rather than fear.

    Turning the feed graphic into English is a patriotic high treason, in my opinion. Betraying one's fatherland just for money. It's something I never will understand.
    Ahh, the good old "my language is my culture" argument ... The same sad line that has seen the Parti Quebecois marginalising itself to simply be popular amongst the old and inane here ...

    All that I will say to that is to describe the situation here in Quebec.

    The vast majority of the population is native francophone. That said, we are an island of 8m in a predominantly anglo sea of about 350m (if you include the US - although the average American's grasp of English is a topic for another debate altogether ...!). The Quebec culture is very strong and is very jealously guarded by the vast majority of the population - irrespective of linguistic background. Contrary to the impression that most of the world has, a large number of the "yes" vote for separation were in fact anglos. I in fact count myself as a separatist - because the culture that I see and love here is different to the culture that I see and dislike in neighbouring Ontario and many of the other provinces.

    Against that background, the vast majority of francophone parents - over 85% at the last survey - want their children to be educated in French and English from an early age.
    A similarly high proportion of French students look to get places in English CEGEPs (a level of education between secondary and tertiary training).

    At no stage are these people being treasonous towards Quebec or trying to undermine the culture. In fact, it's the opposite. They realise that, by having the capacity in what is (rightly or wrongly) the language of commerce and politics, they can strengthen Quebec and assure its place in the world.


    I will stop now as I have spent too much time on this.

    I will say one more thing - I've been down rabbit holes with you before ... dragged there by your blinkered view of the world and use of supposition as "fact". (Remember your attempt to "teach" me Quebec history?) So, reply to this if you wish - but know that I wont be replying to you.
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  • « Last Edit: February 29, 2016, 19:08 by Kiwirider »

    Carlo Algatrensig

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    What would you say AG if Gerro after winning the Tour Down Under, was forced to answer partly in French by an Aussie commentator? I can speak french, I guess, he's raced for AG2R. And there are still a lot of cycling fans with good command of French and who cannot speak English. And French is supposed to be the official language in cycling.


    One of the things you seem to be suggesting is that Sporza and GVA were forced against their will to do these bits in English and if that is the case then it would be wrong but if both were happy to do it and it was in an interview being carried live not just by Belgium TV then I really don't see what the problem is.
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  • Claudio Cappuccino

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    My question didnt get an answer but I am one of the luckies to be able to watch Sporza and Renaat interviewed Greg firstly in Vlaams for the ''FLASH'' interview...

    Impressed by Greg's English by the way, must be in the name ;)
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  • Mellow Velo

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    My question didnt get an answer but I am one of the luckies to be able to watch Sporza and Renaat interviewed Greg firstly in Vlaams for the ''FLASH'' interview...

    Impressed by Greg's English by the way, must be in the name ;)

    Me too.
    Jasper Stuyven's "FLASH" interview exactly the same, yesterday.
    So, it seems it's a policy decision.
    I assume that it is done with at least a quick nod of prior agreement with the interviewee, however.
    Sporza doing their bit to help Globalise the sport. :D

     My initial reaction to it on Saturday was surprise; not sure whether it sat well with me or not.
    So, I can understand to some degree Echoes sentiments.
    Any change within the framework of the "Classics" is viewed as an affront to the traditions/culture etc.

     However, International events are just that, so national integrity, at times can be compromised.
    Cycling's linguistic demographic has changed, both on and off the bike.
    Sporza have simply recognised and acknowledged this fact.
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    Drummer Boy

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    I have just a couple of points to add.

    It's always bothered me when American or British reporters try to engage with a rider whose English is obviously not very good, and yet they persist in using colloquial terms when asking questions, and use expressions and euphemisms that are clearly not going to be understood very well by the person they are interviewing. It's often more a case of ignorance than arrogance on the part of the reporter, but it's always baffling to me nonetheless.

    It shouldn't be that difficult to asses the English comprehension of someone from just one answer. And yet the reporters will still often resort to vague terminology and overly-coloful descriptions of the days events, and then expect the rider to offer an articulate response. It's absurd.

    I'd much prefer to have someone who is multi-lingual interview the rider in their native tongue, so that at least their natural expressiveness will come through, and then for the answers to be translated as they go along, for the benefit of a wider audience.



    As for how American riders should present themselves to foreign media:

    I'm always the first to criticize the lack linguistic skills in the U.S. but the prominent riders have usually displayed a grasp of other languages.

    Certainly LeMond is known for his fluency in French.
    I've seen Lance do interviews in French.
    Chris Horner did interviews (hysterically so!) in "Spanish" after winning the Vuelta.
    Tyler Farrar is fluent in Dutch, as he has lived in Belgium for quite some time.

    I'm not sure about others, as I'd have research the video evidence a bit. But I think the effort is often there, and by mostly living abroad for much of the season, most riders do tend to pick up a fair bit of language from their host countries, or from their teammates when the main language surrounding them is different from their own.
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  • « Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 02:37 by Drummer Boy »

    LukasCPH

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    Tyler Farrar is fluent in Dutch, as he has lived in Belgium for quite some time.
    Flemish, dude! :-x

    Chris Horner did interviews (hysterically so!) in "Spanish" after winning the Vuelta.
    Yes, those were hilarious. :lol
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    Joelsim

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    My question didnt get an answer but I am one of the luckies to be able to watch Sporza and Renaat interviewed Greg firstly in Vlaams for the ''FLASH'' interview...

    Impressed by Greg's English by the way, must be in the name ;)

    Yup. Van Avermaet is a very English name.
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  • Armchair Cyclist

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    I'm stunned that you are saying this and don't see it as a problem. Just baffled! I mean you simply saying that Anglophone media have their own demand, their own diva whims. But who do they think they are ... You realise what the world would be everybody had the same demands ...

    Yes, native users of English have become comfortable in their linguistic hegemony, but that is, for better or worse, unrivalled (at least in 'Western' culture) so your point about everybody having the same demands is a hypothetical that will never come to pass.  The Dutch are noted and much admired for their polyglotism (it is not so often attributed to the Flemish, but I am sure it applies equally), a pragmatic response to the relatively small linguistic population with much bigger neighbours.  It would seem that willingness to use other tongues is not considered by most to be contrary to national pride.

    I can't help noticing a marked contrast between your ecclesiological position on the priority of a global tongue and your sporting insistence on primacy of the vernacular. 
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  • Capt_Cavman

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    ...

    I can't help noticing a marked contrast between your ecclesiological position on the priority of a global tongue and your sporting insistence on primacy of the vernacular.
    No idea what language you're using there. Maybe you could try saying it in Belgian?
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  • t-72

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    I didn't have time read the entire thread (did a few posts on the bus home, but there are seldom that many posts here, I am a bit shocked  :S). However, I think I can echo some of Echoes sentiments but not his  :angry

     I have seen that all types of sports events are now formatted for american television even if there is no actual american interest in watching these events. And the post-event format goes like this: Find out who is the winner, short interview (you know what they say bla bla bla) and podium ceremony tout de suite to allow for a final commercial break to be sold out. It is not just in cycling it is in alpine skiing (ok, somewhat semi-global) and cross country skiing as well (even more niche sport with even less interest in America-  and then this little kingdom in the north of Europe that can think of nothing else).

    This is not about what is being said,  it is about increasing the value of the commercials that come next. They would like as few as possible to turn off/switch channel and for that purpose they like to give something that everybody has a chance to be a little interested in. That's where lowest common denominator comes in,  and that is the language understood by most in Europe and North America per today.  If the interview after the Ronde van Vlaanderen had been in Norwegian it would make perfect sense - as Kristoff speaks Norwegian, not Flemish -  but everybody in Belgium, UK, France and other places except maybe Denmark would turn it off ("Gibberish!" "Unflemish" and so on) so the value would be negative with respect to the post-race commercial break for most broadcasters.

    Having said that listening to sports events broadcasted through the anglosphere is torment. It is a style question more than a language limitation but even with limited knowledge of the host country language you quickly gather that the English commentaries struggle to see things which are not typically English to see.  I'd rather watch the full Giro in Italian sans subtitles than one stage with English commentary. I don't speak Italian, but "Ataca Rodriguez (ataca ataca)" or something like that with at little bit of drama and animation is a lot more fun than "Rod-rig-eis goes onto the attack."  Carefully pronounced with equal weighting on all words to avoid stirring an emotional response on the viewer side! It's a wonder to me there's any sports fans left on that island  :D

    Edit: Ronde van Vlaanderen should read "Tour of Flanders" methinks! It is just like the Tour of France, I think that is called something else by the natives.
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  • Echoes

    • Road Captain
    • Country: be
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    Bumping up this thread because I have not forgotten and am not ready to forget the insults inflicted against me that moderators approved of and even applauded to.

    Read in today's Gazet van Antwerpen :



    Quote
    Dat Thomas De Gendt in het Engels wordt geïnterviewd door Renaat Schotte is op zich ook vreemd, maar het kan er echt wel bij [...]

    That Thomas De Gendt is interviewed in English by Renaat Schotte [Sporza commentator] is weird as such, but it can be [...]


    So call me a relic, call me what you will, say I'm old-fashioned, say I'm over the heels but if a respected journo probably Guy Van Landenbergh of a serious newspaper (GvA) notices that there's something wrong with that, it has more credibilit than the laments of lone "Fascist" Echoes.

     

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  • Carlo Algatrensig

    • National Champion
    • Country: gb
    • Posts: 882
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    Bumping up this thread because I have not forgotten and am not ready to forget the insults inflicted against me that moderators approved of and even applauded to.

    Read in today's Gazet van Antwerpen :



    That Thomas De Gendt is interviewed in English by Renaat Schotte [Sporza commentator] is weird as such, but it can be [...]


    So call me a relic, call me what you will, say I'm old-fashioned, say I'm over the heels but if a respected journo probably Guy Van Landenbergh of a serious newspaper (GvA) notices that there's something wrong with that, it has more credibilit than the laments of lone "Fascist" Echoes.

    Was he interviewed in English for Sporza? Or was he interviewed in English by Schotte for the world feed interviews?

    If its the first one then it would be wierd if it's the latter it wouldn't be. There have been previous instances of this happening. When German TV didn't cover the Tour ITV's Ned boulting would interview German riders in German for world feeds.
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  • Armchair Cyclist

    • Classics Winner
    • *
    • Country: 00
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    • Awards: 2019 Spring Classics Prediction Champ2018 Tour de France CQ game winner
    .
    .. but if a respected journo probably Guy Van Landenbergh of a serious newspaper (GvA) notices that there's something wrong...

    I bet I'm not the only one who had to double check that you weren't referring to Greg van Avermaet as a serious newspaper.
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