10 Sportspeople Who Can Speak Chinese


Today, Chinese is one of the most popular foreign languages. More and more people start learning it every day – chances are, you are a learner too!

Some people dedicate their whole life to studying Mandarin, others pick it up as a hobby. In the previous post, we talked about celebrities who can speak Chinese, and today we are going to talk about the sportsmen who, despite all the pressure, managed to learn Mandarin.

It’s the Top 7 list of sportspeople who can speak Chinese – both male and female. We hope they inspire you to keep learning!


 1. Ai Fukuhara

Ai Fukuhara | Sportspeople Who Can Speak Chinese

Ai Fukuhara is a Japanese table tennis icon, known in China by the nickname Japanese doll. Thanks to her cute looks, Ai Fukuhara is regarded by Chinese fans as a porcelain doll. She is fluent in Northeast dialect (东北话 dongbeihua), and that’s that earned her this crazy popularity. She spent most of her childhood in China, practicing and mastering ping-pong. No wonder her Chinese is outstanding!


 2. Britta Heidemann

Britta Heidemann | Sportspeople Who Can Speak Chinese

Britta Heidemann is a German épée fencer. She won the Olympic gold medal in Women’s Individual Épée event in Beijing. She speaks Chinese with a slight German accent, but it still sounds very clear and fluent. She even has a Chinese name – 小月 xiǎoyuè – “little moon”!


 3. Darko Matic

Darko Matic | Sportspeople Who Can Speak Chinese

Retired Croatia’s football player Darko Matic has been the Sports Director of the Chinese Super League side Beijing Guoan (北京国安) for several years. So no wonder his Chinese (北京口音, Beijing dialect) is remarkable! He also has a Chinese nickname, 马五爷 Mǎ Wǔyé – by the name of one of the characters from the famous drama play 茶馆 (Teahouse), written by Lao She.


 4. Misha Ge

Misha Ge | Sportspeople Who Can Speak Chinese

Misha Ge’s name in China is 小老外 Xiǎo Lǎowài  – little laowai – which is an affectionate nickname for foreigners, especially westerners. He is a former Uzbekistan’s figure skater. He started training when he was 5, and won his first gold medal in championship held in Ukraine when he was 9. Misha Ge moved to China when he was little, so he lived, trained, and skated in China at the national level. That’s why he can speak not only Russian and English, but also Chinese. He also took a choreography course at Beijing Dance Academy. His Grandfather GeSha is a famous Chinese painter and actor.


 5. Nathan Adrian

Nathan Adrian | Sportspeople Who Can Speak Chinese

Nathan Adrian is a professional American swimmer. From 2008 to 2016, he took part in three Olympic Games and won 5 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze medals. He even has a Chinese name 家骏 Jiā Jùn (the first character means “family”, the second one means a “fine bourse”, and together they become somewhat like an “outstanding person”). He’s half Chinese, as his mother is from Hong Kong. No wonder his Chinese is really good.


6. Lee Chong Wei

Lee Chong Wei | Sportspeople Who Can Speak Chinese

Lee Chong Wei’s ancestors are from Fujiang province (so he’s ethnically Chinese), and he’s  a Malaysian professional badminton player. Malaysia is a country made up of many different ethnic groups, and 30% of its population is Chinese! So for Lee, it’s almost natural to speak Chinese fluently. Only besides that, he can speak two more languages: Malay and English.


7. Lia Neal

Lia Neal | Sportspeople Who Can Speak Chinese

Lia Neal is a professional American swimmer. In 2012, she won a bronze medal for 4100m freestyle swimming during the London Olympics. Lia’s mother is from Hong Kong, so she can speak Cantonese fluently. She also can speak Putonghua and English.


8. Timo Boll

Timo Boll | Sportspeople Who Can Speak Chinese

Professional German ping-pong player Timo Boll is the next one in our top. He speaks Chinese so well that during the interviews he doesn’t need an interpreter.


9. Viktor Axelsen

Sportsmen Who Can Speak Chinese

Viktor Axelsen is a Danish badminton player. He even has a Chinese name 安赛龙 Ān Sàilóng (“peace – competition – dragon”). He started to learn Chinese because he was a fan of Lin Dan (林丹), a Chinese professional badminton player. Viktor had a Chinese teacher from Beijing, who helped him learn the language online, so he speaks Mandarin with a Beijing accent.


10. Kasumi Ishikawa

Sportspeople Who Can Speak Chinese

Japanese ping-pong player Kasumi Ishikawa is the last one in our list who can speak Chinese. She speak Chinese with a slight northeast accent. Her strong interest in Chinese language was nothing more but Ai Fukuhara’s influence. Some people say that she’s beaten Ai Fukuhara in this field – because her Chinese is much better! She is totally in love with China, likes to eat eggplants (茄子), and even has her own idol: Zhang Yining (who’s a female Chinese table tennis player and Olympic gold medalist). She also likes Taiwanese musician Zhou Jielun, and can understand his songs. She’s amazing!


Have we missed someone on this list? Do you know more sportsmen who can speak Chinese?

Tweet us and share your thoughts at @thatsmandarin!

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