A tennis legend and a linguistic extraordinaire

Bivash Mukherjee
Alongside his unrivaled tennis prowess, Federer's linguistic talents are equally awe-inspiring. He enjoys engaging people in their local language, according to anchor Wang Dong.
Bivash Mukherjee

Did you know that, in addition to his racket skills, Roger Federer is also a polyglot who can communicate in multiple languages?

Federer was raised in Basel, Switzerland, where they speak Swiss German. His mother, who was born in South Africa, likely assisted him with English and Afrikaans in his formative years. The tennis great is also known to communicate in German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish.

And a bit of Mandarin.

A tennis legend and a linguistic extraordinaire
Wang Dong / Ti Gong

Roger Federer is all ears as stadium announcer Wang Dong puts the Swiss to the test on his Mandarin skills.

Alongside his unrivaled tennis prowess, Federer's linguistic talents are equally awe-inspiring. In previous interviews, Federer has admitted his love for languages and is known to do interviews in three or four languages at press conferences and tournaments.

"Talking in different languages is always an interesting thing," he has been quoted as saying.

Federer clearly enjoys engaging people in their local language, a fact confirmed by Wang Dong, who has interacted with the Swiss on a regular basis at the Rolex Shanghai Masters in post-match interviews.

"It was 2014. He had reached his first final here against his best friend, Rafael Nadal. We conduct post-match interviews where we include some words in Chinese to cater to the crowd. But it is always with the winners. Federer had just beaten Nadal for his first title here. At the presentation ceremony, I encouraged him to speak a few words in Chinese. He was up for it, but he insisted on involving Rafa as well. He said that if Rafa does not do it, he will not do it either.

"I was a bit hesitant, as Rafa is not very good with languages. I mean, he is not as fluent as Roger. So, I gave him (Rafa) some elementary Chinese words, which he managed with some effort. Then, we approached Roger, and he handled it beautifully."

Asked if he practiced Chinese with the players before testing them on the court, Wang answered in the negative.

"No. It is total ad-lib, always spontaneous. There were times when we met at the players' lounge and he would ask: 'What are we going to do today?' I would reply, 'I am not telling you now.' And he didn't mind. I don't know, but it may be a little bit of superstition as well. We only spoke to the winners, unless it was the final.

"He had a remarkable ability to mimic others with great precision. He would address the spectators, saying, "Wo ai ni men" which means "I love you all." He even attempted to speak in the Shanghai dialect ... 'A la hui lai la,' (We are coming back to Shanghai), and the crowd swooned. He had the ability to captivate the audience with his exceptional mimicking skills and precise pronunciation.

"We have been carrying on this very basic conversation in Chinese for nearly 10 years now," Wang said, adding that people have told him they come to the stadium specifically to hear him speak in Chinese.

Federer has previously said that he was making an effort to learn Mandarin but was finding it hard. "It's not an easy language," Federer said in 2018. "It's hard, but maybe I'll pick up a few sentences here and there." It is very likely that Federer's Mandarin-speaking abilities will be put to test on October 13.

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