Language skills key for Kawashima

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

As a goalkeeper for the national team, Eiji Kawashima doesn’t want to make a single error during a game.

But off the pitch, he doesn’t think that making mistakes is as costly, like in learning a foreign language. In fact, he believes failure is actually a stepping stone to succeed in mastering a foreign tongue.

Speaking at an event for a Rosetta Stone language support program for Japanese athletes in Tokyo on Friday, Kawashima noted how vital it is to be able to communicate with teammates and coaches in their native languages for athletes that are playing overseas.

“By being able to speak the language of where you’re at, you can express yourself more and that leads to maximizing your performance,” Kawashima said.

Kawashima was the proposer of the program, which provides free language training software to athletes and coaches who play and coach internationally. The 29-year-old ‘keeper, who played for Belgium’s Lierse S.K. the past two seasons, is also the ambassador for it.

Kawashima, who’s fluent in English and Italian along with respectable Dutch, French and Portuguese skills, talked about the progression of the project and his ambition for expanding in the future.

“I’ve often been asked by my teammates on the national team, and I’ve been asked by athletes of other sports as well,” said Kawashima, who returned to Japan after a 1-1 draw against Australia in the World Cup final Asian qualifier in Brisbane on Tuesday. “I don’t care how we’ll spread it out, I just hope we have more athletes that can get by in the world by giving them a chance to improve their language skills.”

After a year since its inception in June of 2011, the project currently supports 112 athletes and coaches. Kawashima’s fellow national team players Masahiko Inoha and Hajime Hosogai, Tomoko Hagiwara of swimming, and retired former national team volleyball player Kana Oyama are notable names on the user list.

Kawashima said that he often interprets the words of Japan coach and Italian Alberto Zaccheroni during the team’s training sessions and still misunderstands what the coach says.

But he’s not afraid of that. He said that making mistakes is actually a good way to master a language.

“I still have occasions like that, but I think I can learn more through those mistakes,” Kawashima said.

The former player for three J. League clubs may be moving to another European team this summer. During the event, he said in fluent Italian that he hopes to play in many countries, performing at a higher level.

“Maybe it would be an easier adjustment for me to go to a country where I can use English or Italian,” he said, likely referring to the English Premier League and Italy’s Serie A.