24th May 2013 at 01:00

Learning how to speak the Bean's English

Teachers of English for speakers of other languages are blessed with an embarrassment of riches. What better way to get learners hooked on the language of Shakespeare, Laurence Olivier and The Beatles than by making use of our magnificent cultural canon?

A recent survey by Kaplan International Colleges quizzed English teachers on the materials they use in the classroom. And what was the most popular television show? Mr Bean.

Yes, no less than 23 per cent of 500 teachers from 40 countries said that they used clips of the British comedy show, in which Rowan Atkinson plays the hapless protagonist with an unfortunate habit of transforming everyday tasks into opportunities for flagrant buffoonery.

So how can a character who barely speaks be useful in teaching English? According to the show's executive producer Katherine Senior, it is popular because of "the small amount of dialogue and the fact that it appeals to all cultures as it is easy to understand".

The rest of the non-English-speaking world must think that the UK is populated by barely literate imbeciles. But things could have been even worse: the second most popular TV show was Friends. FErret would rather bash his furry little head repeatedly against his desk than suffer that.

'Violent' hazing vetoed

Anything universities can do, vocational colleges can do better. That was FErret's first thought on hearing that Thailand's education minister, Phongthep Thepkanjana, had banned off-campus "hazing" parties for the year's new intake.

Surely this would be a mine of hilarious frat-house-style antics; an Animal House for the plumbing set?

Er, not quite. It turns out that Thai hazing parties are a little more intense, involving gangs from vocational institutes fighting battles with guns, machetes and even home-made swords, according to an Al Jazeera report. Police described them as "fraternities of violence".

So the ban is not surprising. But others have claimed that it is overblown. As one university president said of anti- hazing protesters in 2011: "They are too knowledgeable. They have been studying human rights too much."

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