My visitors today

Sunday 13 September 2009

Is there really no language barrier?

"Der Club" , Nürnberg, 12th September 2009

Football, music, conductive pedagogy, are these really all languages that are understood all over the world, regardless of the tongue one speaks?

This is a question that I asked myself when I was out on a "jolly" treat yesterday afternoon.

Sometimes I think Yes. At other times I begin to wonder.
Today a football match got me thinking about the differences that there are, despite playing the same game, and the English-speaking visitor to my group last week made me ask questions about the conductive language too.


I was at a football match yesterday with one of my clients from my evening group for adults with cerebral palsy. He had first invited me to accompany him a long, long time ago, years ago in fact. We eventually arranged a date to suit us both and our driver, his Dad.

Der Club

Erste FC Nürnberg is a team with a yoyo action, like Norwich City. It has just gone up once again into the first division so, with the fans really excited about this, it was the ideal time to watch a game.

It has been a long time since my first and only previous visit to the Franken Stadium which has been named the Easycredit Stadium since World Cup 2006 but retains its old name amongst true Frankonian fans.

I had been taken there in 1993 by my German family, when Nürnberg played like a British-fourth division team and when the stadium was designed with the fans sitting even further away from the play than they do now so it was like watching football on television.

World cup 2006 changed German football

Throughout Germany stadiums that were to be used during the world cup tournament were re-designed or, in the case of Bayern Munchen, a new one was built. The Germans wanted to create somethng of the atmosphere that they enjoyed at British clubs. An important factor in achieving this, they thought, was to bring the fans closer to the pitch. Most German stadiums double up as athletic stadiums and have several metres of land for track and field events between the football pitch and the supporters. This really does make for less contact between the fans and the players.

I am used to watching Norwich City play. As a child and teenager I would stand in the family enclosure and move down to the front whenever I wished, to see my favourite players run past just a few feet away. Or more recently I sit beside my nephew in his season-ticket seats in the home-fan’s stand, the Barclay, only three rows back behind the goal. You can see the grey hairs, the runny noses and the smiles and hear every word spoken from that distance. It is a very different experience from that, even at today's renovated Franken Stadium, as it still retains its running track.

So I am not a stranger to football games. I have twice been to see Norwich play at the old Wembley Stadium, and I have been to many matches at Norwich and at Aston Villa, as I used to live just five minutes' walk from both the Canaries ground in Norwich and Villa ground in Birmingham.

In Nürnberg it was different

It is difficult to say how it was different. Most importantly for me was the huge amount of space outside. The stadium is built on the Zepplinfeld a huge area where millions of people would descend on Nürnberg in the 1930s to hear Hitler speak.

Yesterday there were no crowds pushing to move through city streets when the match was over as there always are in England, no queues of cars trying for what seems like hours to leave their parking places in the terraced streets that often surround a British ground.

In Nürnberg there was space, metres between me and the next person, space for my client not to be shoved about in his wheelchair, even with the capacity crowd of 46,780 that the game attracted yesterday.

This space made me feel different. I am not afraid at a match in UK but the closeness as people leave and enter the ground does have a slightly tenser feel about than I felt in Nürnberg.

Inside the stadium

The language really isn’t the same as in England. Neither the language of the fans nor that of the football.

I am not an expert on football but as far as I could see the ball stayed on the ground a lot more in the football that I saw yesterday than it does when I see British clubs play. Yesterday I got to see quite a lot of fancy footwork reminiscent of the days of Bobby Charlton, and my all-time favourite player, Georgie Best.

The atmosphere in the stadium, the language of the fans, was also so “un-English”. It was tremendously loud, with an amazing sound of drums, a constant beating and clapping of hands, lots of chanting, fewer songs than at English clubs, and a wonderful feeling of warmth and security.

I wonder what all that chanting actually does to the rhythm of our bodies. Perhaps a research project for someone who is looking into ways to curb football hooliganism, or maybe this has already been looked into. It certainly made be feel nice although I was not standing on top of it, that may be a different story.

Something was missing

The atmosphere was absolutely amazing, like nothing that I have experienced before. The game was exciting in parts, slow and not at all entertaining in others, just like football can be, but I loved every minute. I soaked it all up, the flags, the colours, the chanting and the play.

But something really was missing.

Der Club won with the only goal of the match, scored after 5.59 minutes. I cheered and clapped with the rest of the home team but I felt as if I could just as well have clapped for the other team.

Deep inside it wasn’t “we” that won, it was der Club. My team is still Norwich City, or Manchester United or England, depending who is playing. For me “we” will never be the der Club however well it plays and however much I enjoy the relaxed but exciting atmosphere.

Its that soul again

I realised that the colours were the wrong ones. Instead of red and black I wanted to see the bright canary-yellow and green of my home-team running about on the pitch.

I kept expecting the “Barclay” stand fans to erupt with “Have a little scrimmage” and end with “On the ball, City”. My soul wasn’t out there with der Club as it would have been with the Canaries. If der Club missed a chance or played bad passes that feeling of despair was not there as it would be, and often is, at Carrow Road, Norwich.

And of course Delia Smith wasn’t sitting in the stands beside me, as she very often has been.

There are no language barriers in sport, but a different "language" is spoken than that spoken at an English ground, when going to a football match in Germany, in and outside the stadium, on the pitch and in the stands.

And in Conductive Education?

What languages do we have there?

I am not really thinking here about the many different tongues spoken in all the countries that have imported Conductive Pedagogy from Hungary over the past few decades.

I am talking about the languages similar to those that I heard, and saw, and felt at the football match yesterday. These are the languages that are most important to me in my work. The languages that are often spoken without words between employers and conductors, management and staff, parents and conductors, conductors and conductors, conductors and clients.

I am talking about the “language" of Conductive Education, Petö therapy, or is it conductive upbringing or even conductive therapy?

I mean the language that I feel when negotiating, when watching or when working. The things that I felt most intensely when I was a student in Hungary, when I learnt without a word of Hungarian.

I was witness to this communication again this week in several situations.

Complementary and harmonic conductors

I feel that there are several types of conductors and, in my personal experience, many good conductors. Also in my experience these different types of good conductors complement each other well when working in a team. Sometimes like red and green, blue and orange or yellow and purple, sometimes in harmonies like red, orange and yellow.

I only have to speak to a conductor on the phone to know what kind of conductor I have here and to know within a little what it would be like to work together.

I can speak to most conductors in two or three languages, with a choice of Hungarian, English or German, but the language of conduction has nothing to do with these. When speaking the same or a complementary language with a colleague while at work, it is to do with the soul, to do with the feelings that I had when at the football match yesterday. It is at work without our ever having to speak. It is like magic when this happens.

I fitted in at the stadium just as I do in all conductive settings. I felt comfortable at the football game but there was a different language in play and not always a complementary one, just like it can sometimes be in a conductive setting.

When I speak to people in Conductive Education, no matter what role they play, I know immediately what language they are speaking. I know immediately what place Conductive Education holds in their soul and I usually know immediately whether I am understood or not.

I have had separate telephone conversations this weekend with two German conductors. In both cases the spoken language changed, sometimes mid-sentence, from English to German and back again without our noticing. This went unnoticed because we were really speaking a third different harmonic language in our souls.

I have spoken to other conductors this week and we have spoken sometimes three languages plus another complementary conductive language. Luckily I haven't found a language that I don't understand.

No language barriers there either!

In the group the souls knows no barriers

As I said in an earlier posting this week I have had a visitor form Canada. A young conductor who speaks neither German nor Hungarian.

She helped me in my stroke group. I did say a few things to her in English if I saw her looking confused but that was seldom, she worked along side me, not in virtual silence because I explained many things to her, but quietly. For two hours and it worked.

The following day one of my clients with aphasia tried very hard to explain this experience to me. I think that I understood. I think that my client was telling me about the language that the young conductor was using without any words. My client said that, despite their not speaking a common tongue, she had received the help that she had needed, maybe because of and not despite, not speaking.

Could this be the huge advantage that I was given in my introduction to the world of Conductive Education, when I began my learning in Hungary, without words but with my soul and with my feelings.

With employers

I have always got to be out there making new contacts, so that I can find new work. It is always a difficult task at first to establish what parents and/or centre managers know about and expect from Conductive Education. then to decide whether I can offer them anything.
It is interesting to wonder where some parents and/or managers of conductive centres have got their “understanding” of all things conductive from, and then to decide whether I have the energy or the inclination to change any of this.

When the soul is speaking

Sometimes there are no language barriers, sometimes the soul is speaking the same language, just as it was in conversations with my two German conductor friends this weekend, and in the case of the lady in the stroke group last week with her Canadian communicator.

I am sorry to say that at the football match my soul was not with der Club, something really was missing, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself and can’t wait to go again!


Der Club, 1. FC Nürnberg -

Franken Stadium -

Bayern Munchen -

Norwich City Football Club -

Delia Smith -
Cookery-writer and TV personality, majority shareholder at Norwich City FC, often sits with the fans in the Barclay stand.

Zepplinfeld -

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