Why languages will be the real winner at Rio 2016

Who will you be cheering for at the Rio Olympic Games? Usain Bolt? Jess Ennis Hill? Ben Ainslie? Missy Franklin…?

The 2016 Games are just around the corner, and if you’re anything like us, you’re incredibly excited about seeing who wins in sports you’ve never cared about – or even heard of – before. But as Rio prepares to welcome thousands of visitors from all over the world, we’d like to suggest that the real winner of the Olympics will be… languages.

riomax_blueBack in 2014, the search began for 8,000 volunteers to be “the voice of the Games” in Rio. As well as working with athletes these volunteer interpreters will be dealing with press, helping medical teams and welcoming fans at hotels and venues around the city. (And if you think that sounds like fun, we hear Japan’s already preparing to recruit linguists for 2020.)

What’s more, over one million Brazilians have been trained in a second language – mostly English and French (two of the three official languages of the Olympics, along with the language of the host nation) and Spanish. That makes it the world’s largest language learning programme.

Why is that important? Because visitors arriving in Brazil will speak over 100 languages between them, and there’s no better way to welcome a guest in your country than by learning a little of their language. It’s reassuring for visitors to know that if anything goes wrong, there’ll be someone they can talk to about it.

But the best thing about all this? The language skills gained will last long after the athletes and supporters have all gone home. That’s good for the individuals, because learning a language makes you smarter, helps you make friends and opens up new opportunities in work and life. But it’s also great news for Brazil, which will be left with a multilingual population who understand the benefits of speaking a second language for communication and cultural awareness.

So the Gold medal winner is – languages!

To keep up with all the #uTalkOlympics action like us on Facebook and follow on Twitter. You can also test your Olympic language knowledge with our fiendishly tricky quiz.

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