Personal posts and international TV recommendations

Hello world, this is a new type of post. The kind that is just inspired by spotting something nice and wanting to share it with friends and friendly folks, as I hope you blog readers would be if we had the chance to meet. This post is coming to you from my mobile phone, as I'm trying to caramelise onions for the first time in my life. Well, if you hate it let me know - it makes for a more interesting, but less polished type of blog.

I want to share a few current TV and box set recommendations tonight, and from a little further afield than my usual languages.

Russia on Four Wheels


I've been interested in Russia and Central Asia for many years now, since I was lucky to have it on my circuit of business trips in an old job. Russia in particular is so interesting - the giant country that influenced and influences all around it, yet is still a bit unknown.

So whether you are interested in this country's complex, beautiful language or not, I think finding out more about Russia means finding out more about the world. The BBC is preparing for the Winter Olympics in Sochi this year with a documentary entitled "Russia on Four Wheels". It's a road trip like no other. Two reporters chart the past and present of this country on very different routes, and meet interesting people along the way. I just wish there had been time for a longer show, to help people understand the sheer size of Russia.

And in case you haven't noticed, the show features the BBC's "other countries" reporter Justin Rowlatt, who reported on life as a German last year.


My second recommendation is for a smart comedy from the BBC, which was recommended to me by my Simon Ager, the man behind Omniglot. We chatted over coffee earlier this year and found that we are both trying to learn Russian at this time. I mentioned my many past visits to the cities of Astana and Almaty in Kazakhstan, and Simon was quick to remember this show.

Ambassadors features British comedy duo Mitchell & Webb as diplomats in a fictional Central Asian Republic called Tazbekistan. They speak a good amount of Russian in the show (impressive effort learning the dialogue from both actors, who sadly didn't really study Russian) and show off the way politics deals with international a place no one wants to hear about! Good fun, and another great Russian practice exercise.

Note on BBC programmes: These are available on iPlayer in the UK and on global iPlayer internationally. Visit the BBC International Youtube Channel for more information.



Am I a little late in finding this television show? Never too late, I hope. Lilyhammer is a Norwegian TV production featuring the prolific and very American actor Steve van Zandt. He plays a mafioso who moves to Lillehammer in Norway as part of the witness protection programme. With beautiful shots of Norway, good stretches of subtitled Norwegian dialogue and a bad language learning tape featuring all throughout episode 1, this is my current box set to watch (available on Netflix).

My love of other Scandinavian TV offerings like The Bridge, The Killing and Borgen is enough to fill its own blog post in the future. They do crime and female protagonists a lot of justice, and a lot better than in the USA.

Teacher TV

Now, I know that I'm not really going to learn Russian from watching Ambassadors and I'm not a student of Danish, but I watch the shows anyway. I just enjoy the way they keep me aware of other places and cultures. Plus, I can totally swear in Danish now.

What is your favourite foreign TV show? What do you watch in your target languages...or even in other languages?