“Learn English With Ricky Gervais,” A New Podcast Debuts (NSFW)

Bom­bas­ti­cal­ly billed as “a new land­mark in human com­pre­hen­sion,” Ricky Ger­vais’ video pod­cast, “Learn Eng­lish with Ricky Ger­vais” does, in a way, break new ped­a­gog­i­cal ground. The trail­er above pro­vides a brief glimpse of the series’ first episode, cur­rent­ly avail­able for free on iTunes. The premise of the show is that Ger­vais and his part­ner Karl Pilk­ing­ton, in a posh-look­ing study with globe and fire­place, par­o­dy video lan­guage cours­es for non-Eng­lish speak­ers. Ger­vais’ obnox­ious grandios­i­ty and the almost method­i­cal obtuse­ness of Pilk­ing­ton have become leg­endary to fans of HBO’s The Ricky Ger­vais Show. Miss­ing here is the third mem­ber of that pro­gram, co-cre­ator of the orig­i­nal British The Office, Stephen Mer­chant, but what­ev­er the rea­son for his absence, this con­cept prob­a­bly works bet­ter as a duo, with Ger­vais play­ing the over­bear­ing and some­what abu­sive teacher and Pilk­ing­ton stand­ing in for the hypo­thet­i­cal “stu­dents,” who would no doubt find this method as bewil­der­ing as he does.

The full episode includes sub­ti­tles in a lan­guage that resem­bles Welsh but most­ly seems like gib­ber­ish (cor­rect me, Welsh speak­ers, if I’m wrong), and Ger­vais and Pilkington’s exchanges are chock-full of non-sequiturs and insults, some benign, some skirt­ing the bound­aries of the uncom­fort­ably xeno­pho­bic, but that’s kind of the point, and the source of much of the humor. The char­ac­ters here are too cul­tur­al­ly insen­si­tive and dense to teach any­one any­thing. Gervais—with Mer­chant and Pilkington—uses a sim­i­lar shtick in his An Idiot Abroad series, and it works, I think, but you’ll need to decide for your­self in the case of “Learn Eng­lish,” and you’ll need to down­load iTunes (on the off chance you don’t have it) and sub­scribe to the pod­cast to view the full first episode, which debuted on August 14th. Ger­vais has said that future episodes may involve either a small fee or adver­tis­ing to cov­er costs.

In the mean­time, stop by our col­lec­tion of Free Lan­guage Lessons, where you can down­load seri­ous lessons in 40 dif­fer­ent lan­guages, includ­ing French, Span­ish, Ital­ian, Man­darin, Ara­bic, and, yes, Eng­lish and Welsh.

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

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