Samuel is the fresh-faced Editor and British-English ‘Besserwisser’ (know-it-all) on Babbel’s Didactics Team. In 20 years of continent hopping he has picked up an unhealthy smattering of French, German, Portuguese, Finnish, Czech, Croatian, Spanish, Arabic, Italian, Scottish, Kiwi and American English (lol). Here he writes about his latest project, which combines metaphor, idiom and colloquial language with (crackpot) British humour. The first of Babbel’s gripping new English narrative courses keeps learners on the edge of their seats while they discover how to converse like an English-language native. Tune in to the situational comedy series “Fowlmouth Farm” – an immersive course for advanced learners, taught almost entirely in English.
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to live on an organic farm in the rainy north of England with a quirky family and a herd of llamas? Want to speak like a Californian backpacker or a West End girl? Say what?!!! You can bet your bottom dollar! (That’s Californian for yes). We know it sounds odd, but this exciting new Babbel course for advanced English learners takes fictional ‘Fowlmouth Farm’ in Yorkshire as its setting. Inspired equally by long-running BBC radio drama The Archers and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film Teorema, this nine-part series takes users on an epic journey into the dark heart of the English language.
A host of fascinating characters with accents from around the English-speaking world introduce commonly used metaphors and colloquialisms, which are heard and trained in dialogues that communicate the narrative arc. Training users’ comprehension and speaking skills across a variety of spoken English accents is the core aim of this course, helping advanced learners to pass as natives!
So, why on Earth did we do it? Well, for a start we know that our loyal Babbel fans are desperate for some new content to get their teeth into. Babbel English courses already cover a huge range of topics, taking learners up to B1/B2 level on the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) scale. So, we thought, how about something a bit more challenging?
The new narrative courses are aimed at C1 learners, meaning upper-intermediate to advanced. By this stage they have a solid grasp of the main points of English grammar and intermediate vocabulary, which means that translation and instruction in their native tongue becomes increasingly unnecessary. Monolingual teaching has been common practice in classrooms for some time now, and as dedicated language experts we decided it’s time for a spot of learning language immersion… The only thing we’ve translated is the core vocabulary, to be sure that there are no little misunderstandings during encounters with your in-laws or the local police!
How did the Babbel Team go about creating Fowlmouth Farm?
All nine episodes of Fowlmouth Farm were produced entirely at Babbel HQ in Berlin, from conception to post-production, and draw on the diverse talents of our in-house polyglot community. Over the course of 3 months I wrote and tested scripts for each lesson and we brought the 11-strong cast of Babbel voice-over artists together to record scenes in our sound studio – an unforgettable and sometimes challenging experience, especially when trying to mimic the sound of llamas in distress!
So what’s it all about? The lives, loves and criminal activities of the unconventional Fowlmouth Family and co. provide a colourful backdrop for an in-depth look into the English language. The use of metaphor is, so to speak, a meta-theme here. When you begin looking, you find it everywhere! Many of the most common English metaphors are explained, as well as indispensable idioms that you’ll need to know if you don’t want to be utterly confused by conversations with English-speaking masseurs, police inspectors and tabloid journalists. All of this is illuminated in a conversational context, with the exciting extra challenge of mastering difficult-to-understand accents such as “Scouse” (Liverpool) and “Glaswegian” (Scotland).
What’s so funny? That’s a tough one to answer, and (here comes the disclaimer) of course we all have a different take on the ‘Dad Joke’. But my personal experience of teaching and learning languages is that when we’re enjoying ourselves, we learn faster, more efficiently and remember what we’ve learnt! Fowlmouth Farm is an experiment in combining light comedy with serious content in order to motivate learners, which at time of writing isn’t being done anywhere else on this scale. So we hope our users enjoy the course, give us lots of feedback and learn as much as we did whilst making it!
Fowlmouth Farm is ‘hot off the press’ and available as part of Babbel English now, so as they say in Yorkshire: Strike while the iron’s hot!