“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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