L.P.G.A. offers mobile language labs to help golfers communicate

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PRATTVILLE, Ala. — While people around her ate lunch, Na Yeon Choi sat digesting English vocabulary. In the clubhouse at last week’s Navistar L.P.G.A. Classic, Choi was bent over a workbook with her pen poised, pondering how to use the word stereotype in a sentence.

More than one public perception was challenged at the sight of Choi, the world’s sixth-ranked women’s golfer, inside on an afternoon tailor-made for golf practicing her English through a cross-cultural L.P.G.A. program.

Choi, 22, was a tour rookie in 2008 when the L.P.G.A. proposed penalties and suspensions for players unable to communicate in English, a tin-eared turn at assimilation that was swiftly abandoned after a public outcry.

A tour at the fore of globalization was made to look parochial, a wobble that soon contributed to the resignation of L.P.G.A. Commissioner Carolyn Bivens. The controversy trained a spotlight on the South Koreans — for their dominance on tour and their reluctance to speak English in public.

Languages are like greens; each has nuances, and boldness sometimes results in embarrassment. The South Korean players became more shy after a profile of Kyeong Bae in a Canadian newspaper this summer in which she referred to the cartoon character SpongeBob Square Pants as “Spongie Bob.”

Choi shuddered in sympathy. Like many of the non-Americans on the tour, she would rather not speak at all if she cannot speak perfect English.

Choi relies on her caddie to help her read the way a putt breaks. For help with the subtleties of English she turned to Martin George, whose Language Training Center, based in Indianapolis, entered into a partnership with the L.P.G.A. this year.

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