I’ve been an IELTS examiner for over eight years. That’s a perfect English sentence, but it’s not in itself very interesting. Far more impressive is the fact that Nick Currie, also known as Momus, has made around 30 albums, written six novels, performed as an Unreliable Guide at various art festivals and biennali, produced reams of art criticism and a consistently compelling blog, and even written a food column for the Japan Times. All that makes him a fascinating subject for an interview, and I had the chance to do just that recently in the jaw-droppingly beautiful setting of the Istituto Svizzero in Rome (interview itself coming soon). Knowing that Nick’s father was an English teacher who brought up his family in Canada, Italy and Greece, I thought it would be fun to take advantage of the encounter to conduct another kind of interview, viz specifically an IELTS one, not because he’s planning to apply for an Australian visa or hoping to embark on a Business Studies course at Aston University*, but because I’m very interested in the question of how articulacy and what it’s probably not okay these days to call well-spokenness relates to language ability, education, personality and intelligence**. Nick happens to be a (problematic term coming up) ‘native speaker’ who is extremely articulate, engaging and intelligent, so I thought he might make a useful and entertaining model for what, if such a thing exists, IELTS 10, 11 or beyond might sound like. Apologies for the audio, which only gets 5.5 as we were up on the roof and it was a bit windy. This is the first of a series of IELTS interviews with semi-famous people; in coming weeks, I’ll be speaking to Lawrence from Denim, Justine from Elastica and the drummer from Ride about why old buildings should be preserved, the usefulness of mobile phones and how uniquely annoying it is to hear 16 candidates in a row all use the phrase ‘global village’ at least five times each.
*A bit like Russell Brand.
**I’m aware that this sentence could have been phrased more elegantly.