Eddie Izzard voted the British Academy/Guardian’s Public Language Champion

28 Nov 2014

Eddie Izzard, stand-up comedian, writer and actor, has been named the Guardian’s Public Language Champion for 2014. The award, voted for by Guardian readers, recognises the commitment and passion shown by a public figure in the importance of language to British society.

The award was announced today as part of the November Language Festival, alongside the British Academy's 2014 Schools Language Awards winners. These awards and the Festival are part of the British Academy and Guardian's language learning series and campaign to start a national debate on language learning.

Eddie Izzard is known for his stand-up comedy, film and television work, and political campaigning. In recent years, he has been celebrated for raising money for charity (he completed 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief in 2009, despite having no prior history of long-distance running), and for his dedication to learning, and performing in, new languages. He has performed stand-up comedy in fluent French and German, with plans to perform in Spanish, and Arabic. In 2003 he received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia for ‘his contribution to promoting modern languages and tolerance of other cultures and lifestyles’. 

On receiving the award, Eddie Izzard said:

“I am very happy to win this award. I believe we have to tell people that learning another language is actually an adventure. It is tough, it needs work, but what it will do is that it will open up another country to you with all the colours of their people, their food, their customs, their sports and their culture. And you will become better human being by going on that adventure.”

The overall winners of the British Academy 2014 Schools Language Awards were also announced during the November Language Festival. This is part of a wider national campaign, in partnership with the Guardian, aimed at raising the profile of language learning in the UK and celebrating the many benefits of foreign language skills for individuals and society. 

In June 2014, schools and colleges – or institutions supporting them – were asked to submit proposals for increasing the numbers of students learning languages at higher levels. 14 prizes of £4,000 were awarded to schools that had shown originality and creativity in language learning. At today’s award ceremony South Sefton College was announced as the winner in the Mainstream School Category and Azza Supplementary School was announced as the winner in the Supplementary School Category. Both schools will receive an additional prize of £2,000.

Dr Robin Jackson, Chief Executive at the British Academy said: 
“Both the British Academy Schools Language Awards and the Public Language Champion award celebrate those who are working to find imaginative and effective ways of encouraging more learners to take languages to higher levels.  We heartily congratulate Eddie Izzard and the winning schools, and we hope they will become beacons of good practice and inspiration and help to turn the tide on Britain's language deficit.”

The full list of British Academy Schools Language Award winners is below:

Mainstream category:

Alun School, Flintshire – a cross-curricular project based on a performance of Snow White in German (Wales)
Ballyclare High School – developing Year 10 pupils to be ‘Language Leaders’ with a particular focus on German (Northern Ireland)
Craigroyston Community High School, Edinburgh – exploring entrepreneurship with a partner school in France through the creation of detective novellas (Scotland)
Ernulf Academy, St Neots – a recovery programme for languages within the school (formerly St Neots Community College) which has been in special measures and has had low take up for languages at GCSE (East and Midlands)
Plymstock School, Plymouth – a student-run social enterprise which will tour feeder primary schools to excite pupils about language learning (South East and South West)
South Sefton College – developing Sixth Form students as ‘Language Leaders’ to undertake work placements as Language Assistants in partner secondary schools and businesses (North)
University of London Institute of Education – developing innovative ways of teaching literature in foreign language lessons working with partner schools and student teachers (London)

Supplementary schools category:

Azza supplementary school, London – improving students’ skills in Arabic and English through the use of poetry, drama and the visual arts. Students are mainly from a Sudanese background. 
Churchill Gardens Primary Academy, London – A family and community learning project in partnership with local primary school aged children and parents to gain GCSEs in Arabic, and inspire students to study languages at a higher level
Leeds Chinese Community School – drama project involved three different groups of students to overcome barriers to taking Chinese A level
Liverpool John Paul II Polish Saturday School – A project designed to improve pupils’ skills in Polish and English through the use of Lowry paintings
Mind Your Language International, London – after-school drama activities in French for students from BME backgrounds in Hackney 
Polish Saturday School in Manchester – awareness-raising project aimed at students and parents providing information about the benefits of language skills for university entrance and employment
Potters Bar Greek School – working with Goldsmith’s College to develop high level language skills and critical thinking through the use of art, drama, music and literature. 

The judges also praised a number of other projects as highly commended:
• The Courtauld Institute – Art history in a foreign language
• CTC Kingshurst Academy, Solihull – Mi cultura, mi mismo
• Deutsche Samstagsschule, Southampton – Support and encourage use of the German language
• Greek Community School of St Charalambos, Bedfordshire – From here to there (technology project)
• Harrogate Grammar School – Accelerating language learning using phonics for WW1 centenary
• Hockerill Anglo-European College, Bishop’s Stortford – On-line video tutorials to support GCSE Japanese
• Hua Hsia Chinese School, London NW7 – Applying CALL (computer-assisted language learning) and PBL (project-based learning) for learning Chinese Mandarin
• Manchester Metropolitan University – Creativity and languages through film
• Peace School, London NW2 – Arabic and digital media
• Queen Elizabeth School, Cumbria – Parlez-vous la France?
• St Aidan’s Catholic Academy, Sunderland – A year of languages
• University of Wolverhampton – Successful transition and aspiration raising
• University of London Institute in Paris – International Language Ambassadors
• UTC Plymouth – Language employer project
• York St John Business School – Making a future using languages a reality for all
• Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni – Motivating through Mandarin
• Ysgol Maes Garmon – GCSE French DVD for Welsh medium pupils

Notes to editors
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