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Chinese-speaking tennis umpires bring the house down

Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark hits a return during her women’s singles match against Wang Qiang of China at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing on Oct. 1, 2017. (AFP/Greg Baker)
BEIJING: Foreign umpires at the China Open have been unintentionally entertaining the crowds and earning hearty applause with their attempts at pidgin Chinese.
Some of the officials, who come from a range of countries, are using very basic Chinese for the first time at the Beijing tournament to give instructions to the ball boys, ball girls and unruly spectators.
Among the words they have learnt is the equivalent of towel to remind the ball boys and girls when players need a wipe-down and then saying “xiexie” (thank you).
Umpires have also learnt the Chinese word for new balls and are saying “xiexie” to the crowd to urge them to be quiet.
Spectators in the Chinese capital have lapped it up, applauding or cheering each attempt — and having a giggle when the pronunciation is a bit off.
Ashraf Hamouda, chief of umpires at the China Open, said some of the 16 non-Chinese umpires had taken it upon themselves to learn the language for the first time.
“They have books and they try to learn the language, they are interested to know Chinese,” he said, adding it was optional.
“Four or five of them have books and they try to get the right pronunciation from the Chinese.”
Hamouda said those umpires attempting Chinese found it helped them at the tournament and in their leisure time.
“It’s not a must, but saying in Chinese ‘pass the towel, pass the ball or ball change’, they find things happen quicker on the court and communication is easier,” he said.