London Cabbies to Take Language Lessons for 2012 Olympics

As London prepares to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, even cabbies are getting in on the act. In order to better communicate with foreign visitors, around 3,000 cabdrivers working for Radio Taxi are taking CD and MP3-based courses in  French, Spanish and Chinese.

In an article on the BBC, Radio Taxi CEO Geoffrey Riesel explained the purpose of the program:

“In 2012 we expect to see an extra 10 million people in London…We are attempting to ensure many more of our drivers can pick up some of the basic phrases of a number of languages.”

However, lest the Olympic attendees be deprived of the wit and wisdom of London cabbies, the lessons go a step beyond basic phrases. According to The Australian,  while the lessons are not designed to make the cabbies fluent in the various languages, they are designed to allow them to go beyond transactional phrases and engage in some light, playful banter with their clients. Sample course phrases include: “I had that Michael Caine in the back of my cab last week” and “It’s political correctness gone mad.” For each language they learn, the drivers will receive a flag to put on their vehicle, advertising their linguistic proficiency to potential customers.

Carlos Oliveira,a driver for Radio Taxi, told the Australian that he believes the language classes will be beneficial:

“The first people these foreigners are going to see are cab drivers, so if we can show them that we parlez a bit of their language then that’s got to be a good thing. To be able to say ‘welcome’ in Chinese would go a long way.”