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Tuesday 28 December 2021

The Language of Love - Interview with Davina McCall

The Queen of Reality is back! Davina McCall hosts new dating experiment The Language of Love on Channel 4 alongside her Spanish co-host Ricky Merino.

We caught up with Davina to find out more about the new series, her lessons from Dora the Explorer and her thirst for adventure.

The Language of Love starts 4 January at 10pm on Channel 4 and All 4.

In your own words, tell us a bit about how the show works.
The idea of the show poses the question is it possible to find love just through body language and instinct and intuition and a vibe off someone? Is it possible to find love if you don't speak the same language? And is love at first sight a real thing? Can you maintain love if you are culturally different and you don't speak the same language? It's a dating show and an experiment all rolled into one.

How did the daters initially get along with the challenge of not knowing each other's languages? What were your initial impressions of how things went?
I think the most important thing to say is that this show is surprising in that it's different from so many other dating shows in a lot of ways. Firstly, the contestants are different from the usual types of contestants you would find on a dating show. They are all invested in finding love. There's no cash prize to be won. There's no huge holiday off anywhere. The prize is love. So they're incentivised to find love and not fame and success. The other thing is, because of the cultural differences, it's so flipping funny. It's so unexpectedly hilarious at times. Because we British behave in a certain way, and the Spaniards behave in a certain way, and me and Ricky – my Spanish co-host – we learnt so much about the Brits versus the Spanish.

What type of things did you learn about cultural differences between the British and the Spanish?
Ricky and I would watch the daters on the monitors and discuss what was happening and sometimes I might say to him, "Why is she upset about that situation?" and he would explain to me what it means to Spaniards when something goes wrong, or how much it meant to the Spaniards if somebody made an effort trying to learn Spanish. Or how reticent some of the Brits were to make that effort to learn Spanish, even if they really fancied someone. Or how music brings people together, no matter what language. Music is the universal language. Love and music. So culturally it was a real eye opener. And there were a few really massive eruptions of lust: real love at first sight stuff where somebody would walk through the door and they were like "wow!", but you'll just have to watch and see how that goes.

What type of activities did the daters do to get to know each other?
One of my absolute favourites was soul gazing. I thought it would be quite boring, because you're just gazing, and nobody is talking – what is the point? But oh my god, it was so amazing and so intense! It made me immediately want to go and soul gaze with people. There were lots of interesting things they did to get to know each other, but some of them were really very brilliant and very deep. What was also interesting to watch is how Spanish people are very liberated physically. They're not embarrassed. We're quite self-conscious as a nation we Brits, and that's not a criticism, it's just an observation. I think that's what the British daters enjoyed about this: that feeling of being released; Not having to feel so self-conscious about themselves or their bodies or their looks. They were freed up a bit.

What do you think the daters found the most challenging about getting to know someone who doesn't speak the same language?
I think the really frustrating thing is when there's so much you want to say to someone and there's so much you want to convey and yet you don't have the words to do it.

I also think when things got a bit hot in there with disagreements or moments of confrontation between the Spanish and the British, not being able to express yourself in anger is also extremely frustrating. There was a remarkable argument between a Spanish guy and an English guy where, bless him, the Spanish guy just had a dictionary and was trying to find his angry word as quickly as he could to try and express himself. It's hugely frustrating not being able to just vent it and then it's over. So overall it's a frustration that builds up – and that can be sexual tension or that can be anger – but it's really annoying not being able to say what you feel.

You'll see in the show that they will the opportunity to go on translated dates, as a treat, but only one couple at a time, and these end up being the most prized possession you can get, because you get an hour of uninterrupted total understanding of the other person. It's like a gift of being able to understand every word that person is saying in real time because they each have an earpiece and every word they say is being translated in their ears. It's brilliant!

Did you think the British men or British women would fare better in the experiment?
I think it's not even a battle of the sexes. It was more a question of whether they were willing to immerse themselves in it and throw themselves in at the deep end. At the start, there were people of both nationalities and both the men and the women who really threw themselves in and you could see straight away that they were going to get a lot from the experiment.

How did you get on with your co-host Ricky? It seems like you two really hit it off.
I love him so much! Anybody who works in television will know that double headers – presenting with somebody else – are so luck of the draw. You've either got chemistry with someone or you haven't. I obviously had looked at Ricky's Instagram page before and thought 'He is fabulous, he has an amazing singing voice, he's very glamourous – he's exactly my type of guy', but you never know until you meet someone in the flesh and OH. MY. GOD. We had the best laugh! I have never laughed so much. He is so lovely. He is coming over to stay with us in the New Year with his partner. We just absolutely clicked. I love him. When I see pictures on his Instagram of him with other women he's working with, I get a bit jealous.

Did you find you had anything surprising in common with Ricky?
We're both extremely camp! We're very similar. We love music. We love the Spice Girls. He loves singing. I love listening to him singing. We are both really extrovert. He is extremely good at his job, which I really admire. I really respect him. There was a lot of love going on and he made me laugh a lot. We both got to watch what's going on, on some monitors and discuss it. Those were probably some of my favourite bits of the show.

Obvious question: How is your Spanish?
Oh my god, Ricky speaks such good English, so I have downloaded Babbel. I am determined by the time he comes to the UK that I'm going to speak more Spanish than I did the last time I spoke to him, which was embarrassing. I understand a little bit of Spanish because I understand French and there are quite a lot of similarities between them, but in terms of formulating sentences and feeling brave enough to just do it, I'm not quite there yet.

Do you know any other languages besides English and French?
No… I know bits of a thousand languages. I can speak a bit of Swedish, I can speak a bit of Arabic, I can speak a bit of Hebrew. I can speak a tiny bit of everything.

Will we see you practising some of the Spanish lingo yourself in the show?
I do try. I try and pick up a few bits and bobs as the show goes along. I realised that Dora the Explorer has taught me a lot! "Feliz cumplea├▒os" – happy birthday. I learnt that from Dora. "Mi abuela" – my grandmother. I learnt that from Dora. So, there are bits and bobs that I picked up from Dora the Explorer that really helped me in this show.

The series is shot in a beautiful countryside finca in Andalusia – did you get much time to enjoy the surroundings?
It was quite funny, I seemed to get lulled into a false sense of security the first two or three days, when I had a bit more time on my hands, and then it got brutal and we were filming non-stop, listening and learning. Me and Ricky really immersed ourselves in it, because we were so invested in making it the best show we possibly could. It was the best team. I really really loved the team I worked with. There were some old old friends of mine from Channel 4 out there. It was really intense and a lot of work, but it was so fun. There was a bit of rain, but it was a blessed relief because, when it's hot and sunny out there, it can a bit unbearable. We did a lunch selecci├│n – where the daters would choose who they wanted to pair up with for the next few days – and we were almost burning to a crisp, because it's outside, so we were all in factor 100 looking like white ghosts trying not to burn.

This show is all about finding love overseas. Do you think holiday romance is something of a rite of passage?
Totally! What I think is really interesting is a holiday romance is always fabulous when you're on holiday, but it's taking that person to your country of origin that's the true test of a romance. So it's all well and good falling in love with somebody in France, but when you bring that French person back to Britain, how does that feel? We did this brilliant bit on the show where the daters got to meet their other half's family, which was hilarious and amazing – you'll see why.

Would you say it's important for English-speaking Brits to take up a second language?
I feel very grateful that I speak another language. When I was younger, I didn't want to speak it but because I grew up around it, it just soaked in by osmosis. It's very very hard to learn another language, unless it's taught rigidly in school to everybody. It's much harder to learn another language when you're older. Sadly, the time when you do want to learn another language is when you're older. That's the cruel thing about it. I think it would be good if more Brits made the effort – I think we are universally known for not making an effort in other people's languages because so many people speak ours. They are so grateful when we do try.

Would you ever consider moving abroad and embarking on a new life there?
I would say I'm getting to a stage of my life where I think, once my kids have left home, I would consider doing anything – I'd go anywhere. I feel quite adventurous, and I've got more adventurous as I've got older. I wouldn't say no to anything. I love the idea of adventure.

You've hosted a few shows over the years that have taken you overseas. Does it really feel like work?
No! They don't because the thing is when a bunch of us Brits go away to film something together, it does feel like, even though we're all working, it's got a holiday vibe to it. It's a lot more bonding compared to doing a normal job where you're going home at the end of every night. Everybody's together 24/7, so it's got such a good fun feel to it. And because the show we were producing was so fun and funny to make, by the end of it, when we'd gone back to the UK, we were all pining to go back. We all got a bit homesick for the finca.

Do you believe love is more than just the words we say?
Love is action! The words you say in love are empty unless it's followed by action. If you don't show your love by actions, then loving words mean nothing.

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