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British Hispanic studies and the Spanish language in sport

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British Hispanic studies and the Spanish language in sport

Jesús Castañón Rodríguez    (Idioma y Deporte)


The discipline of Hispanic studies provides a framework for the international projection of culture in the Spanish language which has been defined as interest in the study of the language, literature, life, politics and customs of Spain and other Spanish speaking countries (Álvarez Barrientos, 2011; Burns Marañón, 2014; Pastor, 1948; Various authors, 2001).

It defines their cultural identity, reads and interprets the cultural past and disseminates the values they contribute to society as a whole. It feels a fascination that establishes a comparative observation, useful for those countries and for the place of origin of the Hispanist.

This discipline has enjoyed great interest and continuity in Europe and the United States, especially in the United Kingdom which has contributed different models for the appreciative study of Hispanic languages, literature and civilisation since the 16th century. Thanks to its preference for direct observation, strong visual imagination, immediate and personal treatment, the rejection of second-hand commentary and the eagerness to provide a direct, original and balanced view, it has generated numerous works and also an important presence of Hispanic studies at universities since the founding of the University of London in the 19th century (Bouza, 2007; Muñoz Rojas, 1941; Pastor, 1948; Thompson, 2006).

In the 16th and 17th centuries it gave rise to narratives of contemporary events, translations and adaptations of books with a utilitarian purpose; it favoured the study and knowledge of the Spanish language through grammar manuals, lexicons and dictionaries and the translation of books and texts on navigation and spirituality; a considerable number of Spanish books were present in private libraries; and Spanish themes bore a special influence on English theatre and novels. The following century saw a concentration on history, an interest in power fluctuations, the economic and moral decadence of the Empire with its causes and travellers. In the 19th century, Spain was presented as a romantic ideal where the personal and lived experience of the traveller was combined with the exotic, the classical, the backward, the sentimental and the passionate. And in the 20th and 21st centuries this panorama was expanded thanks to studies applied to social anthropology, oral history, feminist history and contemporary history to deal with the institutional dimensions of power, describe society and economy, analyse the responsibility and actions of the people who take decisions… And, furthermore, its diffusion was multiplied via scientific journals, new channels, Hispanist centres in London and Oxford and the creation of institutions such as the Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas.


Hispanic studies publications on the Spanish language in sport, generated in non-Spanish speaking countries, have included work produced in 15 European countries (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Norway, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Romania, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland), 3 in America (Brazil, Canada and United States), 3 in Asia (South Korea, China and Japan) and 1 in Africa (Senegal) (Castañón Rodríguez, 2012).

This work has covered at least thirty types of topic that can be grouped into eight centres of attention. First, the languages of speciality and the comparison between romance languages. Second, the journalistic language of the press, radio and television with studies on semantic scopes, aspects of grammar, chronicles, doubts regarding correct wording, stereotypes, phraseology, style books, idioms, front pages, headlines and semantic variations. Third, phonic aspects linked to the pronunciation of Anglicisms and the study of foreign words and expressions. Fourth, lexicography with works on the general lexicon of sport and physical education, vocabularies, bilingual terminology, metaphors, foreign words and expressions, lexicographical works for high-level competition, especially the Olympic Games, the Football World Cup and other international championships, and specific lexica relating to cycling, fencing, football, riding, water sports and tennis. Fifth, literature with a sports theme, with special attention to football literature. Sixth, education with resources for Spanish as a foreign language focusing on sport as an opportunity for work and as an attractive environment in which to approach Spanish culture. Seventh, the compilation of general and annotated bibliographies. And eighth, sociology with contributions relating to the history of sport, social studies on football, resources for the creation of myths and the transmission of social values through the cinema, politics and literature.

Current situation

Within this general framework, British Hispanic studies has broadened and it has enriched the traditional conception of Hispanic studies as the language, literature and political history of Spain to integrate modern sport in cultural studies that reflect on the activities of the human being as a social being, disseminated through the media and in which to express identity (Deacon, 2001; Graham & Labanyi, 1995; Jordan & Morgan-Tamosunas, 2000).

Sport has been of interest for cultural history as it generates behaviours, disseminates positive ideas and creates a memory that is permanently recreated by means of artistic manifestations, shared representations and the use of rhetoric, and moreover the language of sport serves as a source of wording for other news areas. Its political, cultural, emotional and aesthetic dimensions have occupied various studies on global society. Furthermore, it has generated studies on social values that set out to analyse aspects of internationalism, interculturalism, education, health, quality of life, social integration and voluntary work.

In this setting, the focus of British Hispanic studies has turned to cultural studies that cover the relationship between identity and the creation of Spain’s Autonomous Communities, gender focus for literature, the sociolinguistic analysis of the media, the cinema… with the aim of engaging in the study of Spanish sport (Deacon, 2001). It has benefitted from several facilitating bodies. This is the case of the publishers Routledge for social studies of sport and Cambridge University Press for the linguistic study of Anglicisms, as well as numerous scientific journals on cultural studies (Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, International Journal of Iberian Studies, Journal of Cultural Geography, Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies and Studies in Latin American Popular Culture), linguistics (Linguistics and language behaviour abstracts: LLBA), history of sport (The International Journal of the History of Sport) and sociology (International Review for the Sociology of Sport, National Identities and Sport in Society). And it has been present in activities organised by the Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas, which was founded in Oxford in 1962 (Hernán-Gómez Prieto, 2010), and in other English-speaking countries such as Ireland, which experienced the development of an intensive activity in 1982 to learn the language of football and its journalistic language (Arias, 1982 and Sierra, 1982).

The production of British Hispanic studies regarding the Spanish language in sport has comprised six main blocks.

First, a section dedicated to history and which has recorded two aspects: general historiography, which referred to mass leisure in contemporary society (Carr 1983 and 1985) and to portraying the sporting interests of great political figures (Ellwood, 1984; Preston 1990 and 2011), and the history of daily life, thanks to the account of the influence on daily life in Spain of great sports personalities, such as Beckham or Maradona (Burns Marañón 2004 and 2005).

In second place, a block of culture. This began with the tales of travellers in the 19th century to discover Spanish customs and stereotypes (Ford 1845). It continued with the study of the media with a sociological focus and the boost provided by the BBC, both with its Latin American Service from 14 March 1938 understanding sports competition as a bridge for communication of the current affairs and cultural values of the Spanish-speaking world, and with the creation of the space, together with the British Council, to favour language learning (Ciaffaroni, 2003). Hispanic Studies paid considerable interest to the use of the internet for virtual identity construction (Crolley, 2008), the internal and external communication models of sports clubs (Suárez-Otero Redondo, 2006), the representation of sportswomen (Crolley, Hand and Teso, 2007), the social meaning of sport in general (Harrison and Davis, 1995), the political and social meaning of clubs (Burns Marañón, 1999), the Spanish national team (Burns Marañón, 2013; Quiroga Fernández de Soto, 2013 and 2014), the experience of fans and their characterisation (Crolley, 2000) and, above all, the presence of narratives that express identity or relationships between nationality and the State in the media and in chronicles, paying special attention to the cases of Catalonia and the Basque Country (Blain, Boyle and O’Donnell, 1993; Capistegui and Walton, 2001; Crolley, 1997; Crolley and Hand, 2002, 2005 and 2006; Crolley, Hand and Jeutter, 2006; Duke and Crolley, 1996; León Solís, 1996 and 2003; MacClancy, 1996; Pérez Garzón, 2003; Quiroga Fernández de Soto, 2013 and 2014; Shaw, 1987; Shobe, 2008).

The correct use of the language in relationship with physical education and its repercussion on international education (International Baccalaureate Organization, 2007), the compilation of general bibliographies of Anglicisms with references to those used in the field of sports in Spain (Görlach, 2002), specialised terminology in bilingual dictionaries (Hernán-Gómez Prieto, 2010), the compiling of dictionaries (Manton and Webb, 2000; Smyth, 1996; Webb, 2003), the generation of dictionaries of terminological equivalents in several languages for the Football World Cup (Arias, 1982 and Sierra 1982) and the analysis of the standards of journalistic language (Stewart, 1999) make up the third sphere of attention.

The fourth block provided studies on intellectuals and physical culture (Johnson, 2005), female writers prior to the civil war (Johnson, 2004), the relationship between literature and popular culture (Wood, 2003 and 2005), Latin American sports  literature with references to Spain and its perspectives (Castañón Rodríguez, 2010; Wood, 2007 and Wood, Johnson, Mangan, Majumdar and Dyerson, 2009) and the explanation of the historical success of the Spanish national football team, between 2008 and 2012, with symbolic references to the figure of Don Quixote (Quiroga Fernández de Soto, 2013 and 2014).

A fifth section was related to the existence of bibliographies that include references to sports language (Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, Inc. Internet Database Service, 2007).

Finally, the sixth centre of interest dealt with the presence of women in football during the 20th century by means of a cinematographic documentary, initially produced at the University of Roehampton, that included the testimony of the pioneers and diverse opinions of experts in journalism, the history of sport and language (Troncoso Grao, 2013).


In summary, British Hispanic studies has provided a thought-provoking view of the Spanish language in sport, the originality of which resides in an interdisciplinary approach to the study, the gradual incorporation of the journalistic language of sport in the educational sphere in both regulated and non-regulated teaching, the presence of Spanish in multilingual works for high-level competition, the predominance of media over literary sources with a sports theme, literary analysis centred solely on popular culture… In its vision of identity via the media, perhaps excessively centred on Catalonia and the Basque Country, it would be possible to expand this panorama with an analysis of the decentralisation of the daily sports press in different Autonomous Communities during the 1990s in La Coruña, Seville, Valencia, Valladolid and Zaragoza and, in the 21st century, with the generation of digital sports journalism, thanks to its new narrative forms and the expression of local and regional identities in the global era throughout Spain (Castañón Rodríguez, 2014).


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Cómo se cita este artículo

CASTAÑÓN RODRÍGUEZ, Jesús: “El hispanismo británico y el idioma español en el deporte”. Idioma y deporte [en línea]. 1 de mayo de 2017, número 194. [Consultada: 1 de mayo de 2017]. Disponible en Internet: <> ISSN: 1578-7281.