London Cabbies to Take Language Lessons for 2012 Olympics

As London prepares to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, even cabbies are getting in on the act. In order to better communicate with foreign visitors, around 3,000 cabdrivers working for Radio Taxi are taking CD and MP3-based courses in  French, Spanish and Chinese.

In an article on the BBC, Radio Taxi CEO Geoffrey Riesel explained the purpose of the program:

“In 2012 we expect to see an extra 10 million people in London…We are attempting to ensure many more of our drivers can pick up some of the basic phrases of a number of languages.”

However, lest the Olympic attendees be deprived of the wit and wisdom of London cabbies, the lessons go a step beyond basic phrases. According to The Australian,  while the lessons are not designed to make the cabbies fluent in the various languages, they are designed to allow them to go beyond transactional phrases and engage in some light, playful banter with their clients. Sample course phrases include: “I had that Michael Caine in the back of my cab last week” and “It’s political correctness gone mad.” For each language they learn, the drivers will receive a flag to put on their vehicle, advertising their linguistic proficiency to potential customers.

Carlos Oliveira,a driver for Radio Taxi, told the Australian that he believes the language classes will be beneficial:

“The first people these foreigners are going to see are cab drivers, so if we can show them that we parlez a bit of their language then that’s got to be a good thing. To be able to say ‘welcome’ in Chinese would go a long way.”

5 replies
  1. Sarah Spencer
    Sarah Spencer says:

    This is a nice idea in theory and could lead to some funny taxi anecdotes on both sides. But being able to say a couple of unusual sentences is hardly speaking the language! I am not sure I like the tone of the cabbie´s comments “these foreigners” and “parlez a bit of their language” it all sounds a bit patronising. But overall, its a great idea and about time we are seen in Britian to be keen to learn other languages. Come on cabbies: you´ve got 2 years and a city already full of plenty of foreigners to practise on!

  2. Robert Derbyshire
    Robert Derbyshire says:

    I agree that this is a great idea – and disagree that it is a bit patronizing. It’s about making an effort to make people welcome, and I think people are generally delighted when you make an effort to talk their language – even if you are completely terrible. And given my experience with the Beijing taxi drivers, perhaps this is something we have a chance of beating the Chinese at!

    • Caroline Mikolajczyk
      Caroline Mikolajczyk says:

      Hey Robert! Im glad your found our new blog 😛 Hope you like it too! It’s always nice if people make an effort to speak your language i think, more welcoming for them. Thanks again for following us, def appreciated!


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