China’s Shi Yuqi and Japan’s Nozumi Okuhara, world-ranked second in the men's and women's games respectively, are among players taking part in a pilot project for an online English language learning programme being launched by the Badminton World Federation (BWF).
The pilot project, being run in conjunction with Rosetta Stone, a global leader in online language learning, involves 17 athletes and eight officials from six countries, including Shi and compatriots He Bingjiao, Jia Yifan and Huang Yaqiong, as well as Okuhara and her team-mate Akane Yamaguchi, currently the fifth-ranked women's player.
"With the rapid growth of the sport, it is essential for our key stakeholder group - the athletes - to be able to communicate at the highest level to various sections of the media, public and badminton community," a BWF release read.
"As such, having a good command of the English language will allow the playing group to interact with all those involved in our sport in a much more comfortable, effective and professional manner."
The learning platform is customised according to the level and pace of the athletes and allows the learner to study online, and from wherever they are, to fit into their own schedule.
A number of athletes this week sat in on an orientation session with Rosetta Stone’s global implementation strategist, Troy Tilus, at the German Open in Muelheim an der Ruhr.
They were shown the different features of the programme, such as live tutoring classes, as well as participating in mock interviews with other athletes.
Yamaguchi and Okuhara claimed they were excited to be part of the programme and to improve their English language skills.
"I want to be able to respond to interview questions in English," said Okuhara.
Yamaguchi had a more practical reason for wanting to learn English.
"It will make ordering food and drinks at tournaments easier," she said.
Goh Soon Huat from Malaysia commented: "It would be great to be able to converse with more badminton athletes from other countries."
Tilus claimed the self-learning programme was a great way for the athletes to gain the confidence needed to communicate effectively in English.
"Through the programme, the athletes will become more communicative and comfortable in front of the media which in turn will help better promote the sport of badminton," he said.
BWF secretary general Thomas Lund added: "The end goal of the pilot project is to provide not just the linguistic ability but the confidence to the learner to interact with their fans, sponsors, media and even each other.
"As a result, hopefully this will also provide further career opportunities to the athletes outside of badminton."