John Stedman speaks 10 languages, but he never went to university – to the disappointment and disgust of his begowned and mortar-board-wearing masters at the highly-traditional Chatham House Grammar School, in Kent. This august institution was modelled on Eton and is the alma mater of Edward Heath (one-time Prime Minister, and speaker of hilariously English-accented French – but at least he tried) and Frank Muir (the owner of the plummiest tones on the popular game show Call My Bluff).
During a spectacularly undistinguished school career, John obtained two language “O” levels. This astounding achievement did not however enable him to communicate anything to anybody. But he did learn the past historic tense. Unfortunately, he later discovered that it has not been in everyday use in France for two hundred years.
Like most English schoolchildren he never learned the grammar of his own language. In fact, he was not absolutely sure what grammar was. Even though he was at a grammar school. Strange.
In keeping with the grandest traditions of Call My Bluff, John somehow ended up teaching English in Paris to graduates of the École nationale d’administration, where many presidents of France were educated.
Fifteen years spent as a linguist and lexicographer in various African countries produced a fascination with the phenomenon of multilingualism. Most people in the sub-Saharan region speak at least three languages. How can that be, with such limited access to formal education? Learning and producing grammar books and dictionaries in various Bantu languages provided part of the answer.
Now living in Germany, John and his wife, Sharon, specialise in teaching accelerated language-learning techniques.
Connect with this author
John's Book Talk Radio Club interview
Interview 09 December 2021
Interview on Book Talk Radio Club's Goodreads group
Would you like to join Book Talk Radio Club? Go here