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Language learner spotlight on florid French of rugby's Ronan O’Gara

The Irish legend can be an inspiration for language learners after his motivational speech as coach at Stade Rochelais became a social media hit

Ronan O’Gara wowed social media users with his feisty motivational speech in French Pic: Paolo Bona/Shutterstock

Former Ireland international and Stade Rochelais coach Ronan O’Gara has hit the headlines in recent days after a clip of his expletive-filled French speech went viral on social media. 

O’Gara was filmed in June giving a motivational talk to his French players ahead of a match, with English swear words peppering the dialogue.

The coach joined Stade Rochelais in 2019, and has no qualms about expressing himself in French, despite previously joking about his thick Cork accent.

Speaking to the team in a noticeable Irish brogue, O’Gara said: “Les discussions sur: je préférerais Lyon ou Bordeaux je m’en f**king fous! 

“On joue Bordeaux samedi, c’est comme ça! A Dublin on était outsiders, samedi on sera favoris. 

“Mais ton humeur, ta performance sont dictées par le mec à l'extérieur? C’est dicté ici! Il y a tellement de choses à faire progresser dans cette équipe. Je m’en f**king fous de l’adversaire, c’est ici!

Read also: Why Ligue 1 French football club has song that echoes British royalty

“Est-ce que vous avez faim? Vous avez envie de progresser? Ou on f**king part en vacances samedi? C’est pas possible, ça!

“L'opportunité c'est f**king énorme, mais on commence aujourd’hui à zéro. On va créer l'énergie, l'état d’esprit, le sacrifice, toutes les choses que l’on aimerait faire: Ca commence.”

This translates to: “I don’t give a f**k about the discussions over ‘I’d prefer Lyon or Bordeaux’. 

“On Saturday we’re playing Bordeaux, that’s how it is. In Dublin we were the outsiders, on Saturday we will be the favourites. 

“But is your mood, your performance, dictated by the man on the outside? It’s dictated here! There are so many things to improve in this team. I don’t give a f**k about the opponent, it’s here! 

“Are you hungry? Do you want to go further? Or do you want to go on f**king holiday in Saturday. That’s not possible!

Read also: What is the deuxième degré and how can it help your French?

“The opportunity is f**king huge, but we start today from zero. We are going to create the energy, the mentality, the sacrifice, everything that we want to do: It’s starting.”

Despite his florid language, O’Gara can provide inspiration for language learners; he first moved to France with his wife and five kids in 2013 when he took a coaching job in Paris and was surprised to see how quickly his children picked up French. Despite a brief spell back in Cork, the family once again returned to France in 2019 when he took up his current post at La Rochelle.

He described the start of his time at La Rochelle as ‘horrendous’, with his language learning journey reflective of everyone’s story.

Speaking to The Mirror in 2022, he said “You’d need a bit of backbone about you – it’s difficult at the start. You’ve got to push yourself beyond the zone of making a fool of yourself for three months. I’d be in a situation where I didn’t have the words and needed a solution, so it would be like, ‘Help me here, boys.’ But once you ask for help, people help.”

He had some good advice for language learners too: “You can talk 70% in French, 20% in English and make it up for the other 10%. The boys can have a good laugh at me trying to express myself in Cork French.”

Like many French learners, he has noticed the difficulties surrounding the placement of French words and how it can affect meaning. In the Off the Ball podcast, he spoke about his difficulties in communicating with the players: "One word in French that's placed in a different part of the phrase changes its interpretation to players.”

In any case, O’Gara inspired them - his team won against Bordeaux 24 -13.

Related articles

Unveiling the history of rugby in La Rochelle

Rugby brings French town alive with colour and collective pride 

Five steps to interact better with people in French

French courses to improve your language skills

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