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Learning Languages


The Learning Languages programme is for all language learners who are studying for leisure or work, or for those who are considering learning a language. It is comprised of a compilation of extracts from a range of programmes about language learning and learners, illustrates some of the issues involved and offers guidelines on how to learn a language more effectively.

Program Summary

The sixty-minute compilation begins with a short clip from Fawlty Towers, when Basil Fawlty and Manuel are trying (and failing) to communicate in Spanish.

1. Getting started 00
2. How do they do that? 17
3. Putting it into practice 32
4. Sticking at it 47

1. Getting started

It helps to have a good reason for learning a language.


Gary Lineker decided to learn Spanish when he moved to Barcelona to play. He had noticed that most footballers who had been successful abroad and adapted to the way of life had made the effort to learn the language. He later took up Japanese before moving to Japan to work.


Chris Serle was asked by the BBC some years ago to do a Greek language series. He appreciates that there are many ways to learn a language.


Martin Trellis drives a Eurostar train and his job depends on being able to communicate in French. The training he underwent at work was intensive but rewarding, and involved visits to France and socialising too. It wasn't at all like the way he was taught languages at school.


Knowledge of a foreign language can help companies who want to export to non-English-speaking countries. It needn't just be the top level staff who learn - shop floor workers can also be involved and it can enhance career prospects.


Michael Little works at Rover in Birmingham and took up Japanese to ease communications with Honda. Support was offered by the company and he is determined to stick at it. Contact with Japanese people living locally is mutually beneficial.

Get started... and keep going...
Think what a foreign language might do for you;
Forget what it was like at school - things have changed;
Explore new and exciting ways of learning.

2. How do they do that?


Dawn and Jennifer decide one day to learn Italian ...


This extract looks at Professor Stephen Krashen's theory of language learning or language acquisition, in which understanding the message is key. He gives two quick lessons in German to illustrate his point.

LINGO (1991)

There is no substitute for hard work when it comes to learning a language. how long it will take depends on you. Paul Meara gives some guidelines on how long you need to spend and a Russian learner talks about what works for him.


Jenny Eclair does some "active learning" with her walkman, then tries it out in a caf.

LINGO (1991)

Chris Serle practises Greek with his teacher, Paul Meara talks about pronunciation and vocabulary and Andrew Sachs remembers what language learning was like when he was at school.

Use different techniques to re-inforce your learning
Set realistic goals - you're not going to learn a language overnight
Don't be afraid of making mistakes
Listen to the language and speak it at every opportunity

3. Putting it into practice

LINGO (1991)

Andrew Sachs shares his experience of learning English and Spanish and Samantha Bond talks about learning Japanese for The Ginger Tree.


Helen Sharman, Britain's first astronaut, became fluent in Russian as part of her training. Kate Adie, BBC news reporter, travels all round the world and often finds herself in the midst of conflict. Foreign languages then come into their own and enable you to establish communication, to make contact.


Jenny Eclair tries out her French again and tries to do some of the actions.

Putting it into practice
Making the effort in someone else's language is very rewarding
Have a stock of phrases that you can use in various situations
Be a good mimic - work on your accent and throw in some body language

4. Sticking at it

The key to success...

LINGO (1991)

Richard Shaw is learning French to be able to communicate with his French girlfriend's family. Setting aside a regular time to study is important, as is good motivation and knowing what is achievable.

Samantha Bond talks about keeping going, having the courage to have a go and gaining momentum so that you can eventually "jump at it".

Rakie Ayola practises her Welsh on friends as often as she can and is philosophical about having a bad memory for vocabulary. She finds she has absorbed the grammar almost without realising it.

Paul Meara gives some final tips about building up your vocabulary, listening as often as you can to the language and having a go.


Chris Serle has a go at asking for directions.


Jenny Eclair tries out her French on the cross channel ferry.


The key...

The key to success...
Be disciplined and make time
Be organised and keep to a routine
Be ready to learn from your mistakes
Don't be afraid - take the plunge
Don't be put off when it gets difficult
Enjoy the rewards when you make yourself understood

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