Parlez-vous Ronglais? Atkinson returns in <i>le match du jour</i>

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The Independent Online

The show Parlez Vous, made by the creators of Wife Swap and Faking It, takes three celebrities and teaches them French using the "immersion" technique - living in France and only speaking and being spoken to in French. At the end of the month-long course, the participants have to perform their old job in French.

Tomorrow, Atkinson will commentate on a Paris St Germain match for French radio.

The former manager of Manchester United and Aston Villa, who only had two words of French - "Merci beaucoup" - when filming began, is said to have "struggled" to learn the language, preferring to slip in to the few words of Spanish he learnt while managing Atletico Madrid. The aim of the series, which will be shown on BBC2 in Spring 2006, is to encourage viewers to learn a foreign language.

Chosen deliberately for their different levels of proficiency, the three students are Esther Rantzen, who sat A-level French, comedian Marcus Brigstocke, who started out with schoolboy French, and Atkinson, who began with next to no knowledge of the language.

For the past four weeks, they have been living in a villa in Provence with three teachers from the Institut Français. The trio have been set tasks, including taking people on a guided tour of St Tropez. Putting his experience of the high life of an international football manager to good use, Atkinson chose to give a "millionaires' tour" of the coastal resort.

Executive producer on Parlez Vous, Jamie Simpson, said: "He's struggled, Ron, but then we were setting him a very difficult challenge. His big problem is his verbs. He did a bit of Spanish when he was managing in Spain, so he keeps speaking Spanish to the French.

"He can be understood by some people, if they excuse his occasional Spanish word."

Earlier this week, in a dress rehearsal for his French radio commentary, Atkinson commentated on a Marseille football match. Ironically, Marseille is the former team of the France and Chelsea player Marcel Desailly, whom Atkinson described in racist terms in an off-air conversation following Chelsea's Champions League match with Monaco in April 2004, that was heard on Middle East channels, prompting his departure from ITV.

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