Dier, Lukaku, Zlatan, Wenger: Which footballing figures can speak multiple languages?

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Tottenham Hotspur’s Eric Dier is one of many footballers who can speak multiple languages.

Some fans were surprised to learn that Dier can turn his hand to Portuguese when the ‘All or Nothing’ documentary showed him communicating with Jose Mourinho without English.

However, many supporters will be well aware that Dier’s proficiency in Portuguese can be traced back to his time living in the country where his footballing ambitions were fostered at Sporting CP.

Dier’s incredible language skills

Between his family’s emigration when he was seven years old until his Spurs transfer in 2014, Dier spent the entirety of his sporting education in the Iberian nature aside from a loan spell at Everton.

And during an appearance on the High Performance Podcast this week, the 27-year-old gave fascinating insight into life as a bilingual person when he swapped between Portugal and England.

Speaking about his daunting move to Everton from Portugal, Dier reflected: “I was very much Portuguese at the time in every way. My mom was more worried about me forgetting my English.

“Because my whole life was in Portuguese school. The only time I spoke English was with my parents or my brothers and sisters.

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Read more: The High Performance Podcast hub

“So all my friends were Portuguese, so in that way, it was just a huge shock in every way. The way they trained, the way the building was, the city, the weather, just leaving…”

Multilingual footballers

Although some people are able to pick up other languages more easily than others, there is no denying the intelligence and recall required to be able to swap between national tongues.

Here at GIVEMESPORT, we’re happy to admit that we find it endlessly fascinating to see incredibly bright athletes flitting between their native languages and other dialects that they’ve picked up.

Chelsea 2-0 Tottenham Match Reaction (Football Terrace)

And while Dier is one of the finest examples of a language-hopping anglophone, the Tottenham star is by no means alone when it comes to footballers who can traverse multiple languages.

Naturally, we’d be here all day if we wanted to name every multilingual pro, but we nevertheless wanted to shine a light on some of football’s most impressive linguists in light of Dier’s comments.

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Nine footballing figures who speak multiple languages

In fact, using information collated by Babbel – one of the world’s largest language-learning apps – in a recent article, we’ve been able to highlight many of the players deserving of polyglot status.

So, prepare to feel incredibly inferior as we walk you through nine players both past and present who, like Dier, know their way around more than one language – check it out:

Romelu Lukaku – 8/9 languages

One of the most intelligent blokes in football, Lukaku was touted to speak no less than eight different languages when Stan Sport producer Nick Stoll posted UEFA’s language data for Chelsea players.

The Blues’ record signing is said to speak: French, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Flemish and Italian. In fact, you can boost it up to nine if you’re including Lingala.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=QDX05mOq2MQ%3Fstart%3D13

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 8 languages

Back in 2016, The Sun reported that Mkhitaryan could speak an impressive seven languages: Armenian, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Ukrainian and German. 

And with Mkhitaryan having been seen speaking Italian as early as 2019 since his move to AS Roma, it’s safe to say that he’s consolidated his status as one of football’s most nimble linguists.

Mikel Arteta – 7 languages

Having once been caught on camera speaking three languages in 10 seconds on the sidelines for Arsenal, the Gunners boss is more than adept when it comes to cycling through different tongues.

In fact, when asked by Sky Sports, Arteta placed his language total at seven with fluent Spanish, English, Catalan and Basque all in his repertoire as well as some French, Italian and Portuguese.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=k1-7oyrYmig%3Fstart%3D54

Gelson Fernandes – 7 Languages

According to Swiss Life, Fernandes can cycle through seven languages having played in six different countries with a consistent desire to try and learn the vernacular of wherever he’s played.

The scores on the doors? Portuguese, Creole, French, German, Italian, Spanish and English. 

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 6 languages

It makes sense that Zlatan would be speaking so many languages when he’s played for Malmo, Ajax, Barcelona, Manchester United, AC Milan and many other clubs in his illustrious career.

And Babbel places his total at six with Swedish, Bosnian, English, Italian, French and Spanish all attributed to the legendary striker as well as certain strands of sign language. Impressive stuff.

Miralem Pjanic – 6 languages

Pjanic confirmed in an interview with Sport in 2020 that he can speak French, German, Bosnian, Luxembourgish, Italian and English as well as revealing that he was learning Spanish.

Whether or not Pjanic has added a seventh language to his collection remains to be seen given how fleeting his spell at Barcelona is proving to be, but his collection is simply remarkable either way.

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Arsene Wenger – 6 languages

Let’s face it, you only need to listen to Wenger speaking for a few minutes to know that he’s an incredibly intelligent guy. He is FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, after all.

And the Arsenal icon once confirmed that he speaks French, English, German, Spanish, Italian as well as bits and pieces of Japanese from his time at Nagoya Grampus before moving to Highbury.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=aSWnNRrtfw0%3Fstart%3D5

Clarence Seedorf – 6 languages

Another downright genius of football that we bow down to both for his ability on the ball as well as his knack of traversing languages with Babbel clocking him in at no less than six different tongues.

The only player to ever win the Champions League with three different clubs is down as speaking Dutch, English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Surinamese.

Petr Cech – 5 languages

In an interview with Cambridge University in 2017, the Chelsea legend was put down as speaking Czech, German, English and French as well as having made great progress in learning Spanish.

Seeing as he went so far as to say that he could understand and speak to his Spanish teammates, we’re happy to click him in at a respectable tally of five that we could only dream of competing with.

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Inspirational people

Gosh. We should have tried harder at school…

It’s no secret that footballers have to be intelligent operators to reach such a high level in their field of expertise, but you know that you’re seriously clued up when you can flit between languages too. 

So, whether it’s the multilingual skills of Dier, Lukaku or Arteta that impress you the most, be sure to let us know about the many polyglots that we will have inevitably missed across our social channels.

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