Mind Your Language

I’m revising for the phonology orals now, trying to focus on typical areas that learners with different mother tongues need to work on. Had some fun with this. I was wondering whether it was offensive, but have come down on the side of funny. As one reviewer puts it “Yes, they were stereotypes, and it was deliberate. Put believable foreigners in there and you do not have a funny show.” Anna’s trouble with /v/ and /w/ is in part 2 at 9:25.


Mr. Jeremy Brown teaches an English class to a diverse group of ten foreign adult students in London, hailing from nine different countries. From Europe come two au pairs, the flirtatious and beautiful Danielle (France) and prim and proper Anna (Germany), two young single men, Giovanni (Italy) and Max (Greece) and a laid-back middle-aged bartender, Juan (Spain), who speaks no English at all. From Asia, come a revolutionary-minded secretary from the Chinese Embassy (Su-Li), a Japanese businessman (Taro) as well as three students from the Subcontinent, a devout Sikh (Ranjeet) and an unemployed Pakistani (Ali), who are constantly at each other’s throats, and finally a Hindi-speaking housewife (Jamila) who can’t speak a word of English. The school principal, Miss Delores Courtney, nearly dismisses Mr. Brown immediately as she had requested a female teacher, but he is allowed to stay on a trial basis. Mind Your Language, TV Series 1977-1986

The real Tatort story

Opening the New York Times supplement to the Süddeutsche this week on page 4 there is a story by Michael Kimmelman on “German TV Viewers Love Their Detectives“. I was thinking: Great job, NYT, you really pick up on stories quickly. Of course I was thinking of the scandal that hit the presses this weekend: Doris Heinze, director of the NDR TV film program, was sacked after she was discovered to have written many of the film scripts herself, along with her husband, under assumed names, with both of them cashing in on the scam. As the TV scripts are mostly miserable, a sigh of relief has gone through the arts world, and there is some slight hope that the quality might perhaps improve just a bit.

But what does the NYT write? None of that. Simply that the Tatort series is very regional and that ordinary relationships are what it’s all about. Ok, but… Newspaper lead times can really kill a nice article.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I’ve been away from the US for so long that I’ve got a few blind spots regarding US popular culture. But I’m working on it! One of the things I truly regret missing are some of the better TV series, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (March 1997 until May 2003). Just the snippets of teen and college humor you’ll hear in the trailers and scenes uploaded to YouTube were enough to make me fall in love with the series, e.g. “I think I speak for everyone here when I say: Huh???” Great Buffy quotes are collected here, in Wikiquotes.

My initial knowledge of this series and the role it played comes from an outstanding blog on US society written in German, USA Erklärt, whose author, Scot W. Stevenson, is a declared Buffy fan. Your search for “Buffy” there is richly rewarded. Now I’ve found an additional great Buffy resource in a wiki called TV Tropes.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, this is the trailer for season 1:

Here’s a promo video of the animated series, which never came to be:

This looks like a fun drama activity to do in an English class, taken from “Whose line is it anyway?”: Students play a given scene with famous characters and have to insert lines they get. In this case, the scene is moments before sunrise, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer has come to kill Count Dracula as he is draining the last drops of blood from his latest victim.

Since those nice inexpensive US DVDs don’t run on my computer (they’re not Region 0, and I refuse to shut off the universal standard), I’ll have to break down and rip a few. Sigh.