Learning a new language is seriously tough, but we Brits excel tremendously at struggling more than any others when it comes to trying to grasp foreign lingo and becoming fluent in it.
We’ve all done it. Jet off on two weeks abroad, equipped with a pocket-sized translation dictionary, keen to scrub up on the local dialect to show some respect.
That immediately turns into your old man learning the word for ‘beer’ and leaving it at that, often thrown into a hideously English sentence, with a ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ tagged on the end in the foreign language if the locals are lucky.
The rules don’t change for footballers. In fact, that struggle becomes even more notorious, even in an age where more English players are venturing abroad.
With the exception of Fikayo Tomori – who absolutely nailed Italian in record time after moving to Milan – we’ve highlighted seven examples of English speakers who went abroad and just couldn’t grasp their new language, with Harry Kane now desperately trying to remember the German words for going to the cinema with family.
The tenacious midfielder’s season-long loan to Marseille in 2012-13 came as a surprise to us all, but who were we to judge? Perhaps a move to southern France was exactly what he needed to refine his game and learn the arts of va-va voom.
Nope. Instead of immersing himself into French culture as much as possible, Barton merely tried to give off the illusion that he’d done so, by adopting a French accent while continuing to speak English to the media.
We can’t even be mad at him, because it was and still is hilarious. Easy to see why his venture abroad ended after one season.
What happens when Brits go abroad! Joey Barton's fine French accent after his time at Marseille 😂🇫🇷
Tony Adams, you're next! pic.twitter.com/xWgOZAQGZ3
— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) April 12, 2017
We’ve got to give Macca some credit here, but he is an enigma. Like, truly one of a kind.
His stay with Real Madrid was somewhat short but exceptionally sweet, arriving in 1999 after nine seasons with Liverpool, infamously scoring a wicked volley in the 2000 Champions League final and eventually leaving as a legend in 2003.
In that four-year stay, he actually managed to become fluent in Spanish – kind of.
Footage of him speaking it is rather sparse, and if you heard him on Champions League nights mispronouncing Spanish teams and players, you’d think we were pulling your leg. But we’re not. He actually does/did speak it.
It’s more of a scouse-Spanish, GCSE level yet weirdly fluent type thing. And it’s incredible. Not sure he’s got it in the locker anymore, mind you.
— Playing Away From Home (@PlayingAFH) March 4, 2021
After being ruthlessly ousted from Manchester City by Pep Guardiola in 2016 – despite being regarded as one of the best stoppers in the league – Hart very quickly had to find a new home if he wanted to continue as a number one goalkeeper.
An interesting offer presented itself in the form of Torino, and with time running out for him to settle his future, the Englishman spent the season on loan in Italy.
You probably remember his time best by that horrendous announcement video, because his spell as a player was unfortunately very forgettable. But what slips under the radar is his valiant – but very poor – attempts to speak Italian.
He took his first Torino press conference in Italian – ish – and showed off that he had learned the key terms such as ‘carry’, ‘pass’ and ‘leave’, with what appeared to be the help of some cue cards, in an exchange that remains painfully awkward to this day.
Still, though, he deserves credit for at least trying to grasp the language unlike Barton, who just tried to grasp the accent.
You're going to wanna see Joe Hart practicing his Italian. pic.twitter.com/18E8m9v6HR
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) September 16, 2016
Learning from McManaman and doing his best not to let his Brummie accent disrupt his Spanish lessons, Bellingham already looks incredibly settled in at Real Madrid, scoring on his La Liga debut.
The kid is an absolute star and deserves all the success that comes his way after packing his bags and heading to Dortmund as a teenager, which will have no doubt done him wonders.
Apparently not in the languages department, though, judging by his first message in Spanish for Madrid fans after that impressive league debut.
At least he’s honest with himself. Plenty of time to improve, Jude. You’ll get there. Let’s cut him some slack.
Sounded better in me head🤣 https://t.co/OthcMqT9dR
— Jude Bellingham (@BellinghamJude) August 13, 2023
A disciple from the Barton school of thought, Moyes did his best to salvage his stock as a manager following his sacking from Manchester United in 2014 by trying something new in the form of Real Sociedad.
He only lasted a year in San Sebastian, though, with the highlight being his horrendous Spanish accent in press conferences, as he tried to convince reporters that he was an all-knowing, multilingual Johan Cruyff regen. He obviously didn’t fool anybody.
Poor Moyesy returned to England shortly after, and while he’s now rebuilt his reputation with West Ham in his ‘dos’ spell with the club, probably still shudders when he hears the name ‘Illarramendi’.
Need a Spanish translator? Look no further than West Ham's new manager David Moyes 😎 pic.twitter.com/wNDJgo5q0k
— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) December 30, 2019
You’d have thought the new generation of players would’ve learned to not do a Barton, but instead, they’ve embraced it.
Sancho said that he was learning German after moving to Borussia Dortmund in 2017, but as time went on, it had become apparent that he’d just adopted a German accent instead when doing media.
We regret to inform you that Jadon Sancho has fallen into the Shteve McLaren Dutch/Joey Barton French accent trap 😂pic.twitter.com/ltGT0nuDSQ
— Sport Social Podcast Network (@TheSportSocial) February 21, 2021