The Linguist

The Linguist 58-1 Feb-Mar2019

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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AWARDS FOCUS F rank Gardner talks about languages the way an explorer might talk about his most exciting voyages. To him, they are the start of an adventure: "the wardrobe that leads to Narnia… the door to someone else's world". It's not just that the renowned Arabist found his passion for Arabic during a chance meeting with the Arabian explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger, cementing the idea of languages and adventure in his 16-year-old mind. He had gained an innate sense of language's ability to open up new worlds as a child, thanks to his diplomat parents. The family moved to Holland when Gardner was seven. "That was my first real encounter with foreign languages. The thrill of trying to imitate the accent and the language was exciting," the BBC Security Correspondent tells me. His mother, a languages graduate, and father, who spoke excellent German, learnt Dutch in order to mingle with the diplomatic community. "My parents would sprinkle a lot of their conversation with French, Dutch, German and Italian. I was quite inspired by that, and if I'm honest, I probably wanted to be like them – to invent some of my own phrases," he confides. Realising that languages were a gateway to interesting people and places, he studied French and German at school, spending two weeks in Germany with an elderly couple who took him on "rather staid" tours of the town. "But the husband had fought on the Eastern Front in WWII so it was fascinating to hear his stories," says Gardner. Fast forward a couple of years and he had a very different exchange experience aged 17, staying with a French family in Gascony. "We were going to nightclubs on the back of motorbikes," he explains. "I came back speaking quite good conversational French, but the worst French slang. My mum was appalled." Then came his first trip to an Arabic- speaking country: Morocco. "As an 18-year-old, it was incredibly exciting. Arabic was the portal through which I was experiencing a completely different culture. Everything about it was fascinating: the way it was pronounced, the way it was written, the way people's facial expressions change when they speak Arabic." This set him on course for a prestigious career at the BBC which has seen him reporting from across the Middle East, embedding on military operations in Frank Gardner tell Miranda Moore how his passion for Arabic drives his work as BBC security correspondent Being Frank © CHRIS CHRISTODOULOU

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