So hard as I trying to teach my students to speak English good, there are some things they just can’t get there heads under.
And more often than not, it’s quite funny. (Even though I shouldn’t laugh of course.) Here are just a few of the little gems my students have come out with over the last couple of years:
- Me: So you walk into the Embassy. The American Ambassador and all of the members of the American Chamber of Commerce are there. What is the first thing you are going to say?
Business English Student: Hey gays!
- If a crack shot is a really good shot, is a crack whore a really good whore?
- I had a big fight with my brother but then we made out.
- I like walking in the forest. I love the smell of penis. (He meant ‘pines’)
- Eminem is my favourite raper.
Still, however worried I am about my students’ English (I worry about the ‘crack whore’ guy on a number of levels), I’m increasingly concerned about my own.
Of course, being Irish, I have a unique take on the English language anyway. When I worked in England last summer, the British teachers accused me of making up my own language. ‘Can I plug out the kettle?’ was met with much guffawing and Paddy-bashing. To me it makes perfect sense – plug it in, plug it out. No, I was told. That’s not real English. ‘Unplug’ is what you should say.
But that was nothing compared to the reaction I got when I declared that I ‘had a right goo on me’. People looked at me as if I was insane/talking utter filth.
Definition: to have a goo on you – to quite fancy an alcoholic beverage
I learned the hard way that nobody outside of Ireland ever says this.
Still, despite a few linguistic idiosyncrasies, I’ve always been quite happy with my standard of English. Until now. Even though my Latvian hasn’t improved at all, I now seem to be speaking English like a Latvian person.
When one of my students tells me ‘Janis won’t be today’ (a direct translation from the Latvian), I have been known to answer ‘OK, will Gunta and Ginta be?’ Now I know that this is total gobbledygook in English – I’m basically asking if Gunta and Ginta will exist. I wince when I hear myself doing it but can’t seem to stop.
Thankfully, I have some native English-speaking friends here with whom I can attempt to speak ‘normal’ English. However, I’ve noticed that I sometimes talk to them like they’re students too. ‘I was walking (moves fingers in walking motion) to the bar (points at bar) to order a drink (lifts imaginary glass to mouth)…’
At this rate, I fear I won’t be an English teacher for much longer but I will need one.