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Kim Yu-na To Take English Lessons

Posted May. 03, 2007 03:01,   


It happened during the World Figure Skating Championships that took place last March in Tokyo, Japan. An interesting scene was created when Korean figure skater Kim Yu-na (17, Gunpo Suri High School) was heading to the locker room after finishing her free skate performance, passing the ‘mixed zone’ where reporters are allowed to interview players.

It wasn’t a formal conference with an interpreter, and journalists couldn’t hold Kim for long. Korean reporters surrounded Kim, asking questions, while Japanese press staff were dictating Kim’s words with help of their simultaneous interpreter.

On the other hand, reporters from the West were fretting. They looked frustrated as they couldn’t understand a word while their deadlines were approaching. A grey-haired reporter from America began to yell at one of the Japanese staff members, who seemed to have no idea what he was angry about. “Why don’t we have an English interpreter? I’ve been covering these kinds of events for 30 years, but I’ve never experienced something like this!” he ranted. Both Miki Ando (20) and Mao Asada, who won gold and silver medals at the tournament, had interviewed in the mixed zone only in Japanese as well.

Since it was unprecedented in the century-long history of the world championships that Asians swept all the medals, it is understandable that media types from the West were baffled when English became a useless language for just a moment.

However, thinking of this situation in another way, it is no good for Kim, because she missed an important chance to have in-depth media coverage in other languages. For this reason, it is good news that Kim Yu-na’s new management agency IB Sports announced its plans to have her take private lessons in English. We can see that IB Sports aspires to make their client into a world star.

In Korea, we have many talented prospects that are likely to become world-class players, especially in skating. In order to be one, however, proficiency in English is not an option. Athletes hoping to perform on a bigger stage overseas should pay attention to developing skills in areas other than sports as well.