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Paul Sparks, Sino-Canadian International College, Guangxi University, Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for Semester 2 Reading Lessons...



Reading: News Article




"The Brits, As Others See Us"

First published on Tuesday 24 February 2004:

by Sam Thomson


A new book by two Brighton language teachers gives foreign visitors a less-than-flattering introduction to life in Britain.

From vast stately homes populated by good-natured folk with stiff upper lips, to dirty streets full of drunks and junk food-scoffing, spotty teenagers, no stereotype is left untouched.

Yet our very ability to laugh at our own shortcomings is among our strongest qualities, according to the book's authors.

Peter Legon and Martyn Ford asked their students to take a light-hearted look at British life. The result is the How To Be British collection, covering such eccentricities as our love of queuing, obsession with tea, devotion to pets and the way we dress.

Not to mention our love of booze.

Peter, 56, said: "I don't really know why Brits have developed these strange habits but our students tended to blame a lot of it on alcohol consumption."

The book started life in 1996 as a series of amusing postcards illustrated by self-taught artist Martyn, 55.

The cards sold well all over Britain and the authors, who were both teaching at the Eurocentre language school in North Street, Brighton, jumped at the chance to take on the business full-time.

Peter said: "The crunch came when the Eurocentre decided to downsize.

"Martyn and I took voluntary redundancy, fairly confident our other business could support us.

"There are so many things which make the British a bit different and foreigners enjoy that.

"Our students were more than happy to discuss some of the more strange and unusual ways of British life."

Martyn added: "There is some truth in the British being nice and polite and a bit reserved.

"All these stereotypes persist for a reason and we have just exaggerated them for our cartoons."

Some of the jokes are quite risque. British food and bathroom habits do not come out well at all.

Peter said: "Complaints are very rare but one woman wouldn't stock the book because a member of her staff thought the bathroom card was offensive and unfair.

"But I think it is the sign of a mature country when you can make fun of yourself. It's a good quality to have."

The book has proved a huge hit with foreign students, language teachers and curious British natives, who send it to friends and relatives living overseas.

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