ECClub reading groupS

From Shakespeare to Messi

Girona ECclub group leader Barney Griffith talks about his life and career in Catalonia

Where are you originally from and where do you live now?

I'm originally from Sale, a suburb of Manchester in the north of England. I left Sale when I was 18 and went to live in Kiel, northern Germany for 9 months before I went to Lancaster University. During and after university I travelled a lot and spent long periods in different countries, including almost two years in Osaka, Japan. I've lived in Catalonia for exactly 20 years now, as I arrived in Barcelona on January 6th 1995. I couldn't understand why there was no one on the streets; the city was completely deserted. Now I know why. I lived in Barcelona for ten years and then Girona for ten years before returning permanently to Barcelona with my family last summer.

What work do you do apart from the ECClub?

I've been self-employed since 2001 and I combine teacher training, university professor observations, English communication classes, academic translations, newspaper translations and now the football TV chat show. It's pretty much non-stop.

How would you describe your groups in Girona?

The groups are small, even though on paper the list is a long one. They are mainly regulars who almost always come to the sessions and we have got to know each other over the time I've been leading the club. I even already knew one primary schoolteacher from an English training course I had done at her school previously. They are all keen readers who love to have the opportunity to speak and listen in English, and I think a book club is a perfect opportunity to do that. They are very discerning about what they like; it's quite common for members of the club not to like a book and to have their say about it in the session, which is a great stimulus for debate, of course. The intermediate groups are generally very modest about their English, even though they express themselves well in conversation and have few problems understanding the books they read.

What kind of books do your members prefer to read?

There's quite a variety of tastes, as you can imagine. One or two like crime novels such as the The son by Jo Nesbo, but generally speaking most people seem to prefer a well-told story to an exciting or unexpected plot. At the advanced level, The bell jar by Sylvia Plath was quite a success last year, as well, so I think people also like novels with autobiographical elements to them. The Virgina Wolf book we read last year wasn't so popular though, perhaps because they saw it as being quite archaic now.

Which books did you like most last year? Why?

My favourite intermediate books last year were Animal Farm by George Orwell and Have a little faith by Mitch Albom, two very different books of course. I love Orwell's vision and pessimistic view of human nature. As for Mitch Albom, anyone who coherently dissects faith in such an accessible way has to be worth reading, and I like the underlying humour in the way both books are written too. My favourite advanced book was Too much happiness by the Canadian author Alice Munro, whose writing is at times stunning, forcing you to stop and take stock of what you've just read.

What's the best thing about being an ECClub group leader?

The best thing about it for me is being obliged to read so much again. When I was a teenager I devoured books, reading as much as I could in my free time while also studying English, French and German literature at school. When I was 18 I had to write exams on something like 18 different books, including two Shakespeare plays. I continued to read until a few years ago when I suddenly lost interest and started to spend more time writing for myself, which I really enjoyed. I went through a period where I wrote several chapters of a novel, a script for a sitcom and three feature length film scripts in a fairly short space of time. Needless to say, they're not publishable, but now as leader of the ECClub group I get to read a lot again and I'm enjoying it.

How do you feel about this new venture on ELPUNTAVUI TV with the chat show The Week in Football?

I love it. If my love of reading comes from my mum, who always had loads of books in the house, my passion for football comes from my dad. For him it's a religion, so it's easy for me to chat about football, and I love meeting all the people on the show. For me, football is about bringing people together around something they're passionate about rather than dividing them, and I'd like to think that's something I can get across with the TV show. I also believe strongly in English being treated as a real language rather than a subject of study. Too many people have made too much money for too long out of studying English as if it was Latin, when I think there should be a much more balanced approach to learning a language which involves people really using the skills of listening and speaking much more than they do. That's why I believe wholeheartedly in El Punt Avui's commitment to broadcasting in English in the newspaper and on TV, so people start activating all that English they know but they don't have the opportunity to put to use.

Sign in. Sign in if you are already a verified reader. I want to become verified reader. To leave comments on the website you must be a verified reader.
Note: To leave comments on the website you must be a verified reader and accept the conditions of use.