I had what had to be the most challenging day of interviewing ever today. I'm at the U18 World Championships and interviewed three Europeans with low levels of English ability. Some interviewees are so easy that you just give them a topic and they do a monologue. Brett Sterling is this way. Not today. Today was painstaking.
Typically Swedes and Germans speak good English, however, I managed to pick out some that barely did. Then the Czech I talked to came out with a teammate as an interpreter, which is usually kind of awkward but the teammate was very easy-going, while at the same time doing a good job, so we three had a fine time. That one was actually the most successful by any measure.
Here's a ranking of the English skills of players/coaches I've talked to at the tournament, from best to worse:
Erik Haula (FIN) - so good he could pass for a native, mannerisms and all.
Coach Stephan Lundh (SWE) - searched for just a few words
Robin Lehner (SWE) - about the level of most Europeans who play in the NHL in that he can express his thoughts and just gets a few grammatical things wrong.
Mikael Granlund (FIN) - his English was surprisingly good
Tomas Rachunek (CZE) - he played in NA last year so he can say everything he wants to. Not an outgoing person though.
Kirill Kabanov (RUS) -- he tried to say somewhat complex things, but I had to ask for clarification a couple times.
Thomas Brandt (GER) - conversational, but not in a complex way.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (SWE) - warned that his English wasn't good. He almost got a translator.
Finnish coach Mika Marttila -- hard to tell because while he understood some things, he used interpreter to respond.
Toni Rajala (FIN) - answered some questions himself, some via teammate Haula.
Vladimir Tarasenko (RUS) - like Rajala, answered some himself, some via Kabanov.
Simon Bertilsson (SWE) - struggled to give more than 3-4 word answers. We needed an interpreter, but didn't have one.
Adam Polasek (CZE) - full-on interpreter (Robin Soudek).
And here's a photo of the Finns tossing a football around in the parking lot. Erik Haula's dad used to coach football, he told me. Interesting.