Readers of British newspaper the Guardian were invited to nominate their public language champion of the year for the second annual award hosted by the Guardian and the British Academy.
The judges chose comedian Eddie Izzard from a list of nominees that included the manager of Bayern Munich football club Pep Guardiola, and the UK’s deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.
Eddie Izzard is known for his clever comedy involving not only bits in other languages like French but also entire sets. For the 70th anniversary of D-Day this year Izzard performed his latest “Force Majeure” set in English, French and German at the site of the Allied landing.
Accepting the award at the Guardian and British Academy 2014 Schools Language Awards Izzard said
“I believe we have to tell people that learning another language is actually an adventure. It is tough, it needs work, but what it will do is that it will open up another country to you with all the colours of their people, their food, their customs, their sports and their culture. And you will become better human being by going on that adventure.”
We have often covered the UK’s problems when it comes to the perception of language learning, but in this case I think other European countries could and should learn from this award and promote their own national language champions.
As Izzard pointed out in an earlier interview with the Guardian, language learning has a political and cultural basis as well. If we want to grow and strengthen Europe, we need to cultivate a European mindset based on mutual understanding. Language champions could help to better promote initiatives like Mothertongue +2, especially if they come from backgrounds like comedy, music or sports and are known across borders.
- Eddie Izzard named public language champion | The Guardian
- Why languages matter to me: Eddie Izzard, Alastair Campbell and more | The Guardian