The City with the Most Cosmopolitan Skyline in the World—Gets an Update

519MBW3HVQLIt’s the most globalized, most international, most architecturally inclusive city in the world. The fact that it’s fictional is irrelevant.

It’s Babe’s city, and it’s the setting for one of the best cross-cultural films ever made—Babe: Pig in the City. When Babe and Esme Hoggett travel from their English farm to big-city USA, it’s not just Europe and the Americas colliding. There’s all sorts of collisions between species as well, with—to name a few—humans, dogs, cats, apes, mice, a duck, and, of course, a pig.

A wide shot of Babe’s city shows a wonderfully crowded skyline of landmarks from around the world. There’s the Chrysler Building, Big Ben, the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, Christ the Redeemer, and more, all brought together in one metropolis.

Babe’s city was first revealed in  1998, and now, years later, it looks as if several skyscrapers have been added to its horizon. Not only that, but Franklin Templeton Investments has joined the neighborhood. The evidence is the Franklin Templeton commercial “Global Perspective,” which shows the additions of Burj Khalifa, the Petronas Towers, London’s “Gherkin,” and the list goes on. Of course, development comes with a price, as it seems that several structures had to be razed to make room for the new arrivals (Christ the Redeemer’s outstretched arms are nowhere to be seen). Makes sense. Rarely do you have enough real estate available to put in your own Mount Fuji.

So where exactly is Babe’s city? Well, in the movie, it looks as if it’s on the East Coast. And in the commercial, we can narrow it down to an area above Ben Franklin’s left eye. If that doesn’t make sense, you’ll need to watch the ad—and while you’re at it, see how many landmarks you can identify.

Brian Stokle at Urban Life Signs has analyzed the Franklin Templeton commercial and shows some pretty good evidence that the city has been built up on Downtown Vancouver. But I’m not convinced. To my knowledge, Babe has never set foot in Canada. (Visit Stokle’s post, “World Skyline,” for a rundown of the landmarks in the commercial, as well as a shot-by-shot description and other “geeky analysis and research.”)

“Global Perspectives” has been around for a couple years, and I may have seen parts of it before, but it caught my eye two weekends ago when I saw Taipei 101 sporting Benjamin Franklin’s face. That’s not as far-fetched as it might seem: According to a recent China Post article, Franklin Templeton Investments occupies office space in the Taiwan skyscraper. No word yet on when Ben’s face will actually adorn the facade.

(Brian Stokle, “World Skyline,” Urban Life Signs, June 20, 2012; Ted Chen, “Chinese Company to Establish Office in 101,” The China Post, July 5, 2014)

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Language Study: Live (There) and Learn

3797213895_8586cd8e5e_nMan, I really should have studied French harder in college.

That’s how I ended my last post. Actually, I did study hard, got good grades in my three French classes, and was only three hours short of getting a French minor.

The reason I didn’t get the minor was that when I showed up for the first class of The History of the French Language, a 3-hour class taught in English, I realized I was in over my head. It was in the fall, after a summer full of not speaking French, and the girl in front of me asked Professor Honeycutt if he would teach the class in French. She asked this in French, and the girl next to her nodded in agreement. The teacher said he couldn’t do that, but I dropped the class the next day anyway.

It was one of the best decisions of my college career. I’m so glad that today I don’t have to tell people that I have a French minor but about the only thing I can still say is “I speak a little French.”

The problem wasn’t that I didn’t study hard enough. The problem was I didn’t need to use it outside of class. And inside of class, what I said didn’t matter as much as how I said it. You know what I mean: If your teacher asks you to tell about your pet, and you have a dog, but you’ve forgotten the word for dog, but you remember the word for cat, suddenly you have a cat. The professor isn’t asking you because he’s concerned about the animals in your life, he simply wants to see if you can put sentences together.

It’s not a silver bullet, but putting yourself in a place where you need to use a language in a meaningful way is key to learning a language. That’s one of the foundations of Education First, named the official supplier of language programs for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. EF was founded in 1965 by Bertil Hult in Sweden, “on the principle that cultural immersion was a superior way to study a language.”

Below are five EF commercials about people learning a language where it’s spoken. Granted, they glamorize the whole expat experience, but they are commercials, not documentaries.

I just wish that I could become fluent by watching cool videos about cool people living in cool places—and not have to worry about conjugating verbs.

The commercials are called “Live the Language.”

(By the way, who knew that speaking Australian and Canadian was so easy? Almost as easy as what they speak over in England).

(“About Us” and “EF in Brief,” Education First)

[photo: “cafe,” by  pim van boesschoten, used under a Creative Commons license]