I was seated in a lounge at the Training Facility, waiting for the usual Q&A with Chris Armas and the New York Red Bulls. There were worksheets on the table, as well as a small backpack. This “back-to-school” scene gave me pause, but I went back to my research on the upcoming match. Moments later, a blonde woman walked in. She informed me that she was meeting with a few students in a moment. I thought I might have to find a new place to wait. She said it was fine for me to stay, joking that I could become a part of the lesson.
Yvette, a freelance translator and interpreter, has been with the organization for three years now. When a player needs assistance with his English, she works with him two hours per week. Being fluent in Spanish and French, she has helped South American and African players. She is currently working with New York Red Bull II players Edgardo Rito, Miguel Silva, and Amarildo de Souza. Previous students include Carlos Rivas, Alejandro Romero Gamarra, and Cristian Cásseres, Jr.
Yvette’s initial role is to help international players learn ‘Soccer English,’ the terminology and phrases most commonly used by coaches and teammates. She then moves on to basic grammar and elocution. With her help, players can better interact with their teammates and respond to media questions.
Laughs and Familiarity
Sometimes team travel gets in the way, but Yvette makes the most of her time by keeping things light and asking her students to do a little homework. “The class is mostly conversational,” she points out. The class meandered from practicing simple questions and answers to talk of birthday parties and Uber rides. When a player looked at the sentence asking how tall he is, Yvette made sure to point out the difference between ‘tall’ (alto) and ‘high’ (colocado). The group shared a laugh, and I couldn’t help but smile as well.
Additionally, Yvette has a more personal relationship with her students. She is not an official member of the Red Bulls organization. This gives her a unique, outside perspective on the young men in her classroom. These players are young and living away from family in a new country. Their education to this point may not have been consistent, even if they have been in the United States. English as a Second Language classes are not available at many clubs in MLS, leaving players to find their own way. Occasionally Yvette will take players to a supermarket or store to get them accustomed to life in the NY Metro area.
The interest in a second language is not limited to English. Goalkeeper Luis Robles, who is of Puerto Rican descent, learned German while in Europe. He now takes Spanish lessons. “This league is getting more and more international ,” Robles said in a training day press conference. “It’s great socializing with those guys because they’re learning English and there’s a great dynamic there.” As players reduce the language barrier, overall cohesion in the organization grows. With several NYRBII players earning spots in the first team, communication is an important team value.