Two language learners (BBC)

Here’s an interesting interview on the BBC program “Outlook” with a teenage boy who learned Arabic in 5 months, and an older woman, now in her mid 80s, who learned Russian in her late 50s and went on to become a translator. The interview begins at 15:00 minutes into the program.

(In case the link does not work, it is the May 24, 2012 broadcast of the show. BBC World Service - Outlook )

Thanks for this link, Ernie.

Very interesting interview - the woman in particular was truly inspirational.

Thank you. I liked it a lot. And I was glad having no difficulties to understand the interview :slight_smile:

By the way, the program is available as a podcast too: BBC Sounds - Outlook - Available Episodes


That’s good to know, Veral. Thanks!

And I was glad having no difficulties to understand the interview :slight_smile:

That’s very impressive. I wish my Russian listening were that good. There are archives of the program that go back to 2009, which you may enjoy… Also, you may like the program “Witness,” which handles events of (almost always) recent history through eye-witness interviews.

. . . Here are some pictures of Mary Hobson (text is in Russian). The Russians are quite impressed by her translations, it seems.

[ edited to add pictures ]

As I say, she is really very inspirational.

In the past I have sometimes privately felt doubt as to whether a person who is significantly past the age of 40 can really master a complex language like Russian. But Mary Hobson shows that it can be done.

Interesting that their English accents and backgrounds lie chasms apart :slight_smile:

Since I listen to a lot of different accents in English I’ve realized that I’m now able to understand most of the English accents.

@Ernie: I’ve added the podcast in my podcatcher and downloaded several episodes of “Outlook”. I’ll listen to it during my summer vacation. I’ll have a look at “Witness” too. Thank you again.


I suggest you watch the great British movie “The Full Monty” (Auf deutsch: “Ganz oder gar nicht”). If you understand that, I’d be truly impressed.


I prefer podcasts because I do most of my listening during commuting in my car. It is difficult for me to find the time to watch movies. My boyfriend dislikes to watch movies and tv programs in English because his English is on a high beginner level only. And we’re not watching a lot … But I’ll keep your suggestion in mind. Hopefully my daughter is able in one or two years to watch tv programs in English with me.

My English is not perfect. My listening abilitiy were very poor. But it has improved tremendously during the last 3 years. And I’m glad about this. But I’m sure that there are still accents that I’ll not understand. Additionally I guess my vocabulary is still on a high intermediate level.


The film “The Full Monty” is set in Newcastle, I believe? The Geordie dialect is notoriously tough - even for other English native speakers!

My sister and her husband once went to buy some shoes while passing through Newcastle (on the way from Scotland back to the South-West.) I remember her saying that they quite literally had to ask for another shop assistant - one who could communicate with them in standard English! :-0

I see the film is actually set in Sheffield not Newcastle. (It just goes to show that anywhere north of the Watford Gap is best avoided! :-D)

Veral, I think you’ll enjoy some of those podcasts. Be aware that the Outlook format consists of two or three segments per 'cast, but it appears that only the leading segment is listed in the archives. Witness is about one subject per broadcast (at least since I have been listening to it).

Friedemann is right, The Full Monty is a very enjoyable movie. But the dialogue is not easy. If you understand all the spoken dialogue you will be ahead of my wife and me, native (American) English speakers. I’d say we missed about 10-15% of what was said at first, until we grew used to the northern English accent. But worth watching, for certain. Marvelous characters.

JayB, The cards are still out, for me, as to anything but reading (which is not difficult to learn to do). But Ms. Hobson and Steve show that it is possible to gain fully rounded ability in a language after 50.

Ernie - Interesting that an American would find it challenging but thinking about it now you say it, it is true that the Northern accent must sound odd and I guess the word we use are different too. (I am bit of northerner meself as I lived half me life in Liverpool, like :-))
Like sarnie for sandwich, bacon buttie for a bacon sandwich, ziggie for cigarette, ta for thanks, ta-ra for see you, tea instead of dinner and then dinner instead of lunch :slight_smile:

I had been to Sheffield when I was in school and thought the accent there wasn’t that bad but when I watched the “The Full Monty” there were parts were I was completely lost. They used words I hadn’t heard before like “lassie” for girl, I believe and many others. They had a word for shorts like in underwear that I had never heard. They also would say: “We was strippers” and other strange grammatical usages that really threw me off.

But again, really great film, even my Chinese colleagues here liked it, so some humor is really universal.

I haven’t seen the film but can imagine the accents - not to downgrade Vera’s comprehension of the BBC interview (I’d be happy if I could understand that much in another language) but rather that the two accents there are nothing special.

Jeff - They are not difficult to understand. I just thought it was funny how different the two people were . This is actually very PC and at the same time very BBC :slight_smile: too

The one lady sounds very posh and the other guy has a brummie accent which he is trying to suppress with varying degrees of success :slight_smile:

Marianne10, It’s been a good while, but as I recall, what seemed most difficult was the delivery, and the rhythm of the speech. I thought that the characters were mumbling, quickly (if I recall correctly). Not that some of the terms didn’t derail me as well, I’m sure. By the end of the movie we were used to the way of speaking, and probably if we watched again, it would be fine. Excellent film. It certainly would be worth watching again.

Thank your for posting.

Talking of Geordie accents, the X Factor judge Cheryl Cole was fired from her job on the US X Factor because American audiences could not understand her thick Geordie accent! Quite interesting.

The young linguist who is interviewed on the BBC also had a programme made about him, which can be found here:

@ davidmachin - I think this was the official reason. The real reason was that she did not fit into the Fox mould. (Actually I think this is a better reason as it shows more about her personality).