Once a Foreigner, always a Foreigner?

Chris Tarrant is a British TV presenter who first became a household name via a children’s programme called Tiswas.

“Madcap mayhem” for children, on the set of Tiswas

In later years he would present the well known quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? 

Chris Tarrant dons a suit for a serious quiz show

In his most recent TV venture he travels parts of the world by train. Not just any parts of the world, you’ll understand. Just the extreme parts. Like Bolivia.

If you know anything at all about Bolivia (can you name its capital by the way?) you’ll be aware this South American country includes vast areas at great altitude. Hence the extreme nature of Tarrant’s train journey there.

I happened to tune in to an episode yesterday and found it was not the extreme nature of Tarrant’s train journey that struck; no, perhaps it was the linguist in me that was instead drawn towards Tarrant’s complete lack of Spanish.

At one point, in order to impress upon the viewer just how popular Bolivia’s leader Evo Morales is amongst Bolivians, Tarrant held up a photograph of the man in front of various natives and asked this question in his very best English:“Good?”

As straw polls go, this one looked flawed to me. But no matter about the positive results, it was Tarrant’s non Spanish that got me thinking. Shortly after conducting his impromptu popularity quiz, the presenter was seen chomping an odd looking Bolivian morsel on an odd looking Bolivian train. As his guide chuckled and said he was not eating in the style of a local, Tarrant retorted:

Of course I don’t do as the locals do. I come from London, England. I’m not Bolivian.

Good answer!

He’s not shy, Mr Tarrant. He calls it as he sees it, no matter the impression given. On numerous occasions during the programme, he clearly doesn’t know what the Bolivians are doing or why they are doing it, his bafflement conveying a sense of “They must be mad”.

The typical Englishman abroad??

I’m an Englishman abroad.

Last weekend I was chatting to friends in a bar – one Australian, one Spanish – about the subject of integration.

I said that after 12 years of living in Spain I feel no more ‘Spanish’ than I did when I arrived.

It’s not a language thing. I can talk to any local about any subject, in Spanish. So there’s no linguistic barrier to me feeling quite/very/fully integrated.

I have a great fondness for Spain, one which has hardly changed over these years. So it’s not like I’ve fallen out of love with this special place. It’s still special for me.

It must be a cultural issue.

Born and raised in England, I’m only just beginning to realise the impact those formative years have had. They are not called formative for no reason are they!

I think this subject needs further investigation…

See you soon readers!


Jim Porter is a co-founder of Speekee®, home of the most comprehensive Spanish learning program for children ever to appear online

Jim began his Spanish learning journey in 1990. He has been a language teacher since 1994 and he lives in sunny southern Spain with his two bilingual children. Loves it! More…


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