-It must be great to have all those long holidays !
-Well no actually, I’m actually busiest in the summer. In fact, I never take a holiday in July or August.
-Oh, so you’re not a proper teacher then ?
-What kind of teacher are you then ?
-I’m an English teacher.
-Ah, Shakespeare and all that. You must love books !
-Well actually, not that kind of English teacher.
-Ok… I think I’m going to talk to someone else now…
We all get into routines, often continuing with them long after we’ve realised any original context for them has disappeared. Teachers for some reason seem to be a little more prone to getting into bad habits than other people.
It’s easy to say that Donald Trump has poor English. It’s easy to say that the level of English that he uses, in terms accuracy and tone, is far below the minimum expected of any public speaker. And of course the reason it’s so easy to say these things is that Donald Trump actually has really bad English. So inspired by a colleague’s idea, I’m going to test him, to see exactly what level of English he has. Specifically, I’m going to assess Trump’s spoken English using the assessment criteria of the spoken section of the IELTS exam.
It was a lovely sunny evening in the west of Ireland today, which made me feel like Abbey Road would be a good accompaniment to my walk home. Probably because it features “Here Comes the Sun,” but I think it’s a generally positive album anyway, suitable for a balmy evening. As I was listening, I was struck by a line in “She Came in through the Bathroom Window” which I’d heard many times before, but never really thought much about:
She could steal, but she could not rob.
It’s a clever, cute line, and if you’re interested in the possible meaning behind it, you can look here. This evening though, it made me think about the difference between those two verbs: steal and rob.
This is something I’ve been thinking about lately (and yes, I know I haven’t been looking very specifically at the English language these last few days: I promise I’ll do something about grammar or etymology tomorrow). Tomorrow you see, I’ll be conducting the orientation for the teachers who’ll be in our school’s Junior Summer School, teaching teenagers. And so at this time, as well as at others throughout the year, my mind turns to training, and what approach to take. And there are many ways it can go, and a lot of factors to consider, such as:
This post is inspired by the moment I noticed that I finished a recent post with a sentence beginning with besides, and ending with anyway. Not so unusual, but it brought back some painful memories…
Quite a few years ago, I was teaching an IELTS class (IELTS is a tough Academic-English exam). The lesson was a vocabulary one, about using linking words in writing. Quite straightforward for me at that stage, as I’d been teaching for some time. I had a quick look at the main exercises (I’d like to say I wasn’t provided with much time to prepare the lesson, but I’m pretty sure my quick look at the materials was solely due to my overconfidence), and was satisfied: Ok, there’s furthermore, however, although, despite, in addition to… yeah, that’s easy, I’ve time to relax for a bit.
Into the lesson then, and everything was going ok. Ok, until I had a look at the exercise I’d just had the students start. It was pretty straightforward, the students had a text with gaps, and had to choose which words to put into the gaps. Normally, I’d get the answers from them afterwards, and get them to explain what they meant. Which would normally be fine, until I spotted that one of the words to be used was besides, and it was supposed to fit in the last gap. And I asked myself: What the hell does besides actually mean!?
This is something I often ask myself. And then, I look it up. When I get the answer I’m satisfied, and then I don’t think about it again. And then a few months later I ask the question again, and I can’t remember the answer. Partly because it’s not so important, I suppose. And partly because I struggle with 50/50, it’s-one-or-the-other style answers. Like what the difference between biennial and biannual is, which I’ve long struggled to remember (though I think I know it now, but I don’t want to google it in case I’m wrong: I couldn’t face such a setback).
Only, the difference between a tart and a pie isn’t so trivial to me. Because I enjoy baking occasionally. I’ve liked cooking for a long time, but there was always something stopping me from baking. Maybe it felt too difficult, or I was afraid I might fail, I don’t know. But I’ve made a few things now, and baking’s not so bad. It’s basically just cooking, but with more particular ingredients and techniques. And I’m pretty sure that I’ve made some things that could be either tarts or pies, and I want to know one which they are! In fact, at this very moment I have something in the oven (I checked to see if it was ready after the comma after cooking, three lines above) and I’m not even sure if it’s a pie, a tart, or a cake.
Well, I know it’s not a pie, because it just clearly isn’t one. And if you’d asked me to guess, I’d confidently call it a cake. The thing is though, the recipe calls it a tart, and I’m willing to defer to Mary Berry on this one. But I’m looking at it, and I still think it could be a cake. Rather than just google it again, only to forget it again later, I’m going to think about and try to figure out which is which, right before your eyes…