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O Jogo Bonito: UW-Madison screening World Cup 2014 matches in a dozen languages

Wagstaff: 'How cool would it be to watch the World Cup in Portuguese as part of your language experience?'
Credit:Theresa Pesavento/UW-Madison L&S Learning Support Services
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As four weeks of World Cup 2014 matches are screened at locations across Madison, most of the broadcasts will be in English. Several spots will go with Spanish commentary, of course. UW-Madison, though, will be screening much of the tournament in around a dozen languages, representing most of the 32 participating nations.

The Learning Support Services department with the College of Letters & Science at UW is presenting multilingual World Cup screenings over the course of the tournament. So far, soccer fans will be able to listen to broadcasts in Arabic, Croatian, Dutch, Flemish (a Dutch dialect), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Persian, Portuguese and Spanish, as well as English, each during the matches featuring teams representing nations where the language is official or at least widely spoken.

"It's about the language experience," says Steel Wagstaff, an instructional technology consultant with the department, which is based in Van Hise Hall. Located at 1220 Linden St. and towering over the heart of campus, the building is also home to many of the university's language programs.

Wagstaff started thinking a couple months ago about the possibility of screening the World Cup in the primary languages of as many participating nations as possible. The idea was to provide an alternative venue in Madison for watching the tournament, a learning-based opportunity geared towards "language learners, returned study-abroad participants, expatriates, cultural aficionados, or curious soccer fans" as listed in the announcement for the project.

"The U.S. is developing its own World Cup culture," says Wagstaff. "I was imagining that if I were an expatriate in the U.S., if I could see it with announcers from my own country, that would be the best." Moving on from that thought, he considered how multilingual screenings could serve as a both an instructional and fun experience for language students at UW.

"Imagine you are taking Portuguese this summer," notes Wagstaff. "How cool would it be to watch the World Cup in Portuguese as part of your language experience?" In fact, the Arabic Persian Turkish Language Immersion Institute is encouraging its students to watch Algeria and Iran matches, he notes, and other summer language class instructors are expressing interest.

World Cup matches airing during regular daytime work hours will be screened in a pair of auditoriums in Van Hise. Rooms 104 and 114, which are adjacent, will individually show the same match, one in the language of a participating side's nation and its opponent in the other. The World Cup opener, which starts at 3 p.m. on Thursday, June 12, will see host nation Brazil play Croatia in the first Group A match; the two Van Hise rooms will therefore screen the contest in Portuguese and Croatian, respectively. Subsequent matches will follow in similar fashion, though those starting at or after 4 p.m. will not be shown.

All screenings are open to the public and are geared towards a family-friendly atmosphere. No food or drinks will be sold, attendees are asked to keep the auditoriums clean, and alcohol is not permitted.

The technical setup for the screenings is relatively simple, albeit with one tricky element. Each match will be shown on a projection screen, drawn from a video stream on ESPN3. In order to get the audio in the team's native languages, though, Wagstaff turned to radio, specifically the various national broadcasters holding the official rights to the Cup. Many, but not all, of these stations stream online as well. The only issue is the broadcast delay in the ESPN stream, and getting that video to sync up with live audio. That issue was solved with audio software, though.

Not every nation is represented, but the common status of English and French as official languages in various African nations covers four teams, while Spanish does the same for most from the Western Hemisphere.

View the complete Van Hise Hall screening schedule for the group stage.

Another screening schedule lists the matches by language. This schedule is provisional, and may be subject to change.

No schedule is set yet for the knockout stage, but once the group winners and runners-up are sorted out, Wagstaff says he will develop a screening schedule for the latter two weeks of the Cup. These will again be limited to weekday matches during regular daytime hours.

"I know there's a million other places to watch matches that will have a different and admittedly more boisterous ambience," notes Wagstaff, "but I hope this will be an opportunity for people to have a fun time, to sing and chant."

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