A Citywide English Lesson for Sochi, Russia

Preparing for crowds of foreigners when it hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics, a city looks to expand its vocabulary.

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Reuters

Residents in Sochi, Russia, are involuntarily learning English.

Under a new program aimed at making the city more welcoming to the thousands of English speakers expected to visit during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sochi has launched a daily English education program that will put words and phrases on screens throughout the city. The first phrase: Welcome to Sochi.

As Ria Novosti reports, Sochi Education Department head Olga Medvedeva is hoping that the broadcasted words and phrases will be so ubiquitous around town that people will pick them up "on a subconscious level." In total, 662 words and phrases will be sprinkled throughout the city on a daily basis between now and the Olympics.

The words will appear on screens in stores, hospitals, and cultural institutions, and will be accompanied by pronunciation messages spoken by native English speakers. Public transit will broadcast the daily dose of English twice an hour, every hour, every day until February 2014 – and maybe even after.

Sochi's not the only upcoming Olympic host hoping to socially engineer its locals into camera- and tourist-ready ambassadors. In preparation for its Winter Olympic hosting duties in 2018, Pyeongchang, South Korea, is hoping to lessen its residents' stereotypical shyness with this public awareness campaign:

Photo credit: Jerry Lampen / Reuters

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.