More Than Funny Business: A Stand-up Comedian’s Perspective on Multilingualism Posted by meaghan on Sep 4, 2013 in Archived Posts
I never thought a cross-dressing stand-up comedian would deliver some of my favorite arguments in support of language learning, but Eddie Izzard did just that in this article:
Now picture those ideas coming from this guy (caution: F-bomb warning!):
Not exactly the kind of guy you’d turn to for language learning advice, right? Well, it’s not all funny business with Eddie Izzard. On his latest stand-up tour, he’s performing shows in the language of the spectators, speaking French to his audiences in France. He only considers himself 65% fluent in the language, though, so how does he do it?
The way every language learner should—by giving it a shot and asking for help when he needs it. If he’s stuck on a word up on stage, he’ll ask to audience to give him a hand. Clearly he enjoys the challenge. After French, he says he’ll continue with German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, and then who knows what.
Why would he bother? An English speaker could certainly get away with an English show all over the world. Well, first thing’s first… literally. He’s the first stand-up comedian to take his act multilingual in languages he doesn’t fully comprehend. It’s adventurous on his part, and an extra source of laughs for his audiences.
But besides the pioneer global tour, and the the profits he’s pulling in from it, he cites communication and concord as two motivating factors. He recognizes the importance of communicating on a level playing field—without a common language we are reduced to gestures and child-like interactions. Sharing a language is a gateway to meaningful communication. Not just on an individual level, either. Izzard perceives the need for unity in the global community, and cites learning many languages as a path to achieve it.
Maybe this is a little heavy coming from a guy who worships Monty Python and aspires to wear a dress on every continent. But if you ask me, I think we can learn a lot more from a guy like Eddie Izzard other than that there’s a freaking “h” at the beginning of “herb”.
Who influences you to learn languages? Share your insights in the comments!
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