A chat with Clive Malcolm Griffiths
Clive Malcolm Griffiths has worn many hats along his road through life, but he is perhaps best known with his bowler hat on explaining lyrics of today’s top pop hits in Italian schools. He moved to Italy following, as he calls it, “one of my great passions: ice cream.” Since then he founded Videomusic in 1984 becoming the first musical channel dedicated to music. He did a stint for Italia 1’s Le Iene show adding a dose of British humor or as he calls it “taking the Mickey out” of quite a few personalities. Clive then moved onto radio presenting Monte Carlo Nights on RMC and Radio Deejay where his ‘Word A Day’ show, in which with the help of Marvin Gaye, the Beatles and Madonna he explains words and expressions from popular songs, came to life until Radio Monte Carlo picked up the show in 2001 and it was known as Speak Easy. Clive has then taken Speak Easy on the road, with live shows in schools throughout Italy.
Did you ever imagine yourself teaching? How did this adventure begin?
“Teaching English is not what I wanted to do [when I moved to Italy]. Why did I get involved in English? Well, to get by. French was the language commonly taught at schools when I arrived and English was taught like Latin, people learned the rules but they couldn’t speak English at all.
“We need language to communicate and English is the one language that we need. So everybody uses English. The idea is to understand each other both through language and what we’re trying to do. The important thing is to learn something new.”
“I was doing a live Speak Easy Show at a university in Milan and had to award a watch from the sponsor. I asked the audience ‘What’s the time?’ but there was no answer. I thought nobody could understand so I asked ‘What time is it?’ Finally someone answered saying ‘it’s 15 to 21’ but that’s also wrong because no one uses the 24 hour system, so from then I decided to put things right going around schools in Italy doing a show based on pop songs. People repeat what the song says but they don’t know what it means.”
Do you consider yourself an Ambassador of Britain?
“I sometimes do. It makes me feel very responsible. I say to myself ‘you can’t get angry as you’ve got a bowler hat on and you’re representing Britain’. It’s a bit odd, you have to behave fairly well and be a good boy.”
“I get asked to do things that are British, like to do with cricket and rock music and last year I got called from TG24 to comment on the referendum in Scotland and that was very nice.”
We know your passion for language doesn’t stop here, what other projects are you working on? “I have to write four books of self-assessment in English, those that tell you what level your level of English is.”
“On iTunes I have business language courses and audio books. They try and talk about everything on different topics like banking, law and presentations.”
“I also have 2 more weeks of shows at grammar schools in Naples. It goes very well. They do something here that no one else does. At the end of the show they get up and want to hug you and kiss you.”
What would you like Italians to appreciate more from the British?
“What I like most about the English is their sense of humor, especially about themselves. You should be able to laugh at yourself.”
For more info on Clive Malcolm Griffiths, see: www.clive.it