Tag Archives: CosmoPier

How ‘the little stuff’ helps language learners

Later this month the Japanese publisher CosmoPier is bringing out a special magazine on foreign TV dramas that can help people learn English. I was asked to write a piece about the BBC comedy The Office.

How can The Office help learners improve their English skills? I quoted the show’s creators, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

SM: The difference between our show and other sitcoms that are in an office is that they always seem to be too full of incident. There’s people doing one-liners and being zany, which is not what the experience of being in an office is like at all. It is just about monotony, occasionally interspersed with someone making a joke. So we wanted lots of sequences of people just working.

RG: Drama is life with the boring bits taken out. But we left some of them in. Because they can be the funniest bits.

The boring bits can also be the most useful bits for English learners. Many students say that the most challenging part of learning a foreign language is not ‘the big stuff’, like giving a presentation. Instead, it is ‘the little stuff’: things like small talk, chit-chat and banter.