Chartered Institute
of Linguists

Bridget Kendall MBE receives CIOL David Crystal Award


The Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) has chosen former BBC Moscow correspondent Bridget Kendall MBE as the latest recipient of the David Crystal Award, originally donated by the eponymous linguist, a vice-president and Fellow of CIOL.

The award is presented annually to an individual ‘for whom languages have been a constant within their work and life and who has used that knowledge to help or inspire others or to open up the world of languages to a wider audience’.

Bridget Kendall studied Russian at Oxford, and won a British Council scholarship to spend ten months in provincial Soviet Russia in the mid-1970s, a prestigious two-year Harkness Fellowship to Harvard, and a further year to pursue postgraduate research in Moscow.

Bridget was appointed BBC Moscow correspondent in 1989, a role normally given to far more seasoned journalists. The BBC recognised the importance of giving the post to a Russian speaker at this pivotal moment in the country’s history. She spent five years witnessing the extraordinary events leading up to and following the collapse of the Soviet Union.. She reported on the break-up of the Soviet Union and the internal conflicts in Chechnya, Georgia and Tajikistan, using language skills on the ground to gain vital information otherwise unavailable to western journalists.

Further high-profile posts followed, notably as BBC Washington correspondent and then an extended stint in the senior position of BBC Diplomatic correspondent, where she tracked British foreign policy and international crises and reported from scores of countries around the world. Bridget has interviewed numerous world leaders, notably Vladimir Putin live from the Kremlin, in Russian, in March 2001, and again in June 2006.

Bridget became Master of Peterhouse College Cambridge in 2016 and continues to engage actively in events to promote language learning and the opportunities afforded.

The challenging circumstances of the past year prevented CIOL from being able to present the award in person, and Bridget kindly agreed to be interviewed online by CIOL’s CEO John Worne. In the interview, Bridget discusses how studying a ‘hard’ language opened doors to incredibly rewarding life and career opportunities.

Previous winners of the David Crystal Award for an outstanding contribution to the field of languages include names from a great variety of backgrounds from lexicographer Susie Dent to BBC reporter Frank Gardner OBE, and Renée Van Hoof-Haferkamp, former D-G for interpretation at the European Commission.

CIOL’s annual awards celebrate the importance of language and cultural understanding, the value of languages to business and industry, and excellence in language learning. Hear more from our current award winners here.