(Trans. “Golf English Cram School”?)
Responding to protests, the Ladies Professional Golf Assn. announced Friday that it would back down on suspending golfers who do not speak adequate English, reversing a controversial decision that had thrown the organization smack into the nation’s long-running culture wars. The LPGA Tour had announced last month that it would suspend golfers who could not speak English in media interviews, acceptance speeches and tournaments by 2009, saying that language fluency was critical to the sport’s promotion and marketing efforts.
The action occurred as foreigners have increasingly come to dominate women’s golf, with 121 players from 26 countries outside the U.S. — including the LPGA’s top-ranked player, a Mexico native, and three of the last four winners of women’s majors, who are from Asia. The largest foreign contingent is from South Korea, with 45 players.
But what began as an internal marketing move quickly devolved into a raucous debate over culture, ethnicity and language. Partisans on both sides weighed in, with some saying the golf brouhaha underscored how foreigners refusing to learn English are endangering the nation’s core traditions, a charge commonly made against Spanish-speaking Latinos. Others accused golf officials of using English to keep out foreigners, particularly Koreans.
(You can also check out a video on the story here.)
Particularly Koreans, why? The video above helps to answer that. Anyone want to bet all those Asians decrying this move in the video are Korean-Americans? (Hint: you’ll lose your money.) Well, it turns out someone in the LPGA specifically took aside Korean players to discuss the regulation. Whether that’s because they’re worse at English than other foreign players is anybody’s guess, of course.
Probably unlike some bloggers who come to mind, I’m happy that the rule was abolished. Personally, I can do without the whole new wave of tirades and recriminations in the media about American bigotry and racism.
(Which I really wouldn’t class this as, since people of any race can learn English enough to be functional in an interview. Yes, even Korean superstars golfers in their teens! I also suspect it’d be helpful for them to learn some English in terms of, you know, adjusting to life in America.
(But I would call barring them from the league stupid and discriminatory, mostly because hockey, basketball, rugby, and other players — and male golfers! — needn’t be fluent in English to play in the big leagues. Protectionist? Well, yeah. Provincial? Oh, yes, indeed.)
On the other hand, it’d be nice if Korean golfers would be required to enter their Social Security Number in order to buy golf accessories, enter into tournaments, and so on. If they don’t have that, they can fill out forms in triplicate, fax them to every service they want to use, and wait six to eight weeks for clearance. That’s what non-Koreans need to do just to do internet shopping, or join any of the (growing) number of registered-users-only websites in the Korean internet.
And if they could install ActiveX controls in their clubs, and design the gold courses to work only with American-langauge clubs, man, then I’d be happy.
But, okay, expat whining aside, forcing golfers to speak English fluently? Seems pretty silly to me. Especially when it’s only women’s golf. It’d be as silly as making a rule that the only people allowed to do graphic SFX work on Korean movies are those who are fluent in Korean. Just don’t map, do it?
(Hat tip to Julia, who emailed me about this…)