X Games global expansion took off in 2013 with new venues in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, Barcelona, Spain and Munich, Germany — the latter site home to the event airing today through Sunday across ESPN platforms. With X Games events in three new cities around the world, ESPN employees faced a new challenge: how to communicate with local partners, vendors and colleagues in their native language.
More than two dozen X Games staffers rose to the challenge, becoming conversationally fluent in German, French, Spanish or Portuguese using an online language program.
Front Row asked some of the program’s participants about their experiences and some of their favorite foreign phrases.
Brad Florian, director of Business Operations for X Games, said learning Portuguese helped him build and foster relationships with the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the X Games in Brazil.
“They will always speak better English than I will Portuguese,” said Florian, who is fluent in Swedish and speaks some German. “But everyone appreciated the effort that we made to learn the native language – it really helped us build trust and forge positive relationships with our partners.”
Favorite phrase: “Não que não é o meu chapéu” (English translation: “No, that is not my hat”) “Because it sounds so different than anything in English,” Florian said.
German was the language Linda Moore, senior director, Business Operations and Planning, tackled. She had two years of college French but had never taken another language.
“The program gave me basic language skills — words, pronunciation, spelling that helped me communicate with our LOCs,” Moore said.
Favorite Phrase: “Nett sie kennen zu lernen” (“Nice to meet you”)
Grace Coryell, publicity coordinator for X Games, used the language program to prepare for the Winter X Games in Tignes, France.
“I took four semesters of French in college, but living in Southern California, I never got the chance to use it,” Coryell said. “This gave me the chance to practice speaking and brought back all my studies, so I was able to speak French to media and staff in Tignes.”
Favorite Phrase: “Je veux un chocolat, s’il vous plait!” (“I want chocolate, please!”)
Lizz Leach, senior manager, Sports & Competition, says learning Spanish was a huge help during her work on X Games Barcelona.
“Being able to speak even a little bit of the native language helped in communication with the local organizing committee and when working with onsite staff,” she said. “Even just getting around the city or going to a restaurant, it was nice to be able to use what I had learned.”
Favorite phrase: “¿Dónde está la piscina?” (Where is the swimming pool?) “Not because I was doing any swimming,” Leach said. “Because that’s where the Vert ramp was located.”