Middlebury

Monterey Institute takes part in debate over LPGA language requirement

September 10, 2008

MONTEREY , Calif.-The Monterey Institute of International Studies, a Middlebury College affiliate, recently jumped into the raucous debate over a Ladies Professional Golf Association proposal to require golfers to be proficient in English or face fines and suspensions.

Last week, under increasing criticism from players, fans, sponsors, civil rights groups and elected officials, the LPGA rescinded its proposal to fine or even suspend players who could not efficiently speak English at tournaments, beginning in 2009. The LPGA membership includes 121 international players from 26 countries, including 45 from South Korea. Asians won three of the four majors this year.

The plan, disclosed in a meeting with South Korean players at the LPGA's Safeway Classic last month, had included suspensions starting in 2009 for players who were not conversant in English in pro-ams, trophy presentations or interviews. LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens said she would have a revised plan by the end of this year.

Clara Yu, president of the Monterey Institute (MIIS), located in a golf mecca on California's Monterey Peninsula-home to a dozen courses, including Pebble Beach and Cypress Point-offered to partner with the LPGA in providing English language instruction to players. "We hope to help the LPGA by offering a solution for their players," Yu said in a press release. "Our offer would promote and support the communicative competence of its members and aid them in achieving the outcomes required to meet the LPGA's new language standards."

MIIS, which was founded as a language school in 1955 and became a Middlebury affiliate in 2005, offered to develop a curriculum "using a communicative approach to language study and a variety of techniques and media, including the analysis of golf game videos, role-playing of interactions with fans and sponsors, and highlighting the vocabulary of the works of golf. While honing their language skills at MIIS, players could practice their golf game at one of the 12 courses available on the Monterey Peninsula."

"The controversy exposes an important reality," President Yu said in a letter that appeared at Golf Digest's Web site (the letter appears in full below). "Whether we like it or not, the ability to communicate in another language has become a necessary club in the professional's bag, even in a sport as quiet as golf. ... Providing language learning opportunities, rather than merely requiring proficiency, will accrue many benefits to the LPGA, not the least of which is a reputation for cultural sensitivity."

While it formulates a new plan to promote language proficiency, the golf tour, so far, has not taken up MIIS on its offer. But stay tuned.


Walk a Mile in My Golf Shoes

The Ladies Professional Golf Association's decision to require all golfers who have been on tour for two years to pass a test of spoken English has set off a firestorm.

Some have painted this as a blatant act of discrimination against players of a certain nationality; others ask, "What if American athletes had to pass a language test when they played abroad?"

But the controversy exposes an important reality: whether we like it or not, the ability to communicate in another language has become a necessary club in the professional's bag, even in a sport as quiet as golf.

There is a place in the United States where golf and language acquisition are equally renowned: the Monterey Peninsula of California. With its 12 golf courses, including the world famous Pebble Beach Golf Links. Monterey is also known as the "Language Capital of the World," where year after year, more hours of language learning happen than anywhere else in the world.

The LPGA will do well to offer a customized "English for Golfers" service to its members through the Monterey Institute of International Studies, well known for its language teaching and interpretation programs. Providing language learning opportunities, rather than merely requiring proficiency, will accrue many benefits to the LPGA, not the least of which is a reputation for cultural sensitivity.

At the Monterey Institute, we teach our students that in order to understand another culture they need to know the language. And only then can they really understand, with proper respect, what it's like to be "different" from themselves. I call this process "walking in another's shoes."

So whether they are traditional Korean "Dang Hye" or Nike golf spikes, we are all for learning how others think, feel, and communicate. This is the best way we know of building bridges between cultures. And in this world, whether walking 18 holes, or walking up to a lectern at the United Nations, isn't speaking another language a worthwhile skill to possess?

-Clara Yu

President, Monterey Institute of International Studies