Pidgin English

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.

About BerLinda

Adjusting to life in Germany, after living in Latvia for four years. Should be easy, right?
This entry was posted in Humor, Humour, Language and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Pidgin English

  1. John says:

    It’s when you ask them a question and they reply “no yes” that confused me at first. You’ll find yourself saying things like “make a photo” before long and as for grammatical articles, what weirdo uses those? I wery vant, I better like, I am agree, I was been (Russians), milk products, I listen music, if I would speak English, if I will have time, I eat soap, I look films….. you’ll get them all over and over. English has a load of weirdities as well, I had to explain to students there that we learned things by heart and not by head as in Latvian and that when an alarm rings, the alarm “goes off” rather than “goes on.”

    • Expat Eye says:

      It’s like you’re in my lessons! 🙂 I can forgive the students but when I start doing it… I think it might be time for a new country!

  2. Jack says:

    And thank you right back for the follow. It’s only when you start trying to teach English that you realise how odd it is, eh. It really puts the cat amongst the pigeons trying to get everyone on the straight and narrow with all the turns of phrase we use habitually!

    • Expat Eye says:

      So true! Trying to explain to someone that ‘straight from the frog’s mouth’ is hilarious while ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ is perfectly sensible is always a challenge! But it keeps things interesting! 😉

  3. Antuanete says:

    I guess one of problems with Latvians learning English is that at school we are learning some “textbook English”, not real language that is spoken in UK, Ireland, USA… whatever. And later comes influence from movies, fiction books, Internet, which really may create some kind of pidgin-English (as you probably can see in this comment too :))
    I know one Russian guy from Latvia who moved first to Ireland and after a year or two to Vancouver, Canada. He said that in first attempts to communicate with Canadians he found out, nobody understands his English! Not because it was poor or wrong, but it was not the language Canadians spoke – they use different words, different idioms, different style of communication. So he had to listen very carefully and adapt his previous English to Canadian English.

    P.S. Great blog, once I found it, read through all posts and had a good laugh, though at some points it was close to embarrasment 🙂

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha, sorry about that! It can probably cut a little close to the bone at times!! A lot of the younger people I meet here now sound like they’ve walked straight off the set of a Hollywood movie – I’ve asked people whereabouts in America they’re from, only to be told that they’re local! And yes, Irish English can be a tough mistress 🙂

      • Antuanete says:

        First time traveling to USA I had irresistible feeling that I’m in the middle of Hollywood movie set, because people all around acted and talked exactly like movie characters!
        Fortunately, if someone who has seen any Latvian movie will come to here, he/she won’t have that feeling, because there are really few Latvian movies where people actually talk or behave like normal people do 🙂

      • Expat Eye says:

        I must check out some Latvian movies – they sound highly entertaining!

  4. kathexpat says:

    Linda, your blog has embarrassed me! I’m riding the train and burst out laughing several times reading this. Hilarious! My favourite is the poor bloke who makes out with his brother 😦 And just for the record: “plug out” makes absolute sense to me although the rest is gibberish. Fabulous post!

  5. pollyheath says:

    Love this. The rap/rape thing is big here — my boyfriend innocently asked if I wanted “a rape for lunch” oops…

    Keep collecting these for sure!

  6. Yup, this is what happens. Watch the prepositions… they are the first in line for a great big messing up, in my experience.
    Funny tidbits 😉 Keep collecting ’em.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Thanks! Yeah, I’ve had to stop myself from saying ‘good in…’ a few times! Sometimes I can hardly tell what the right way to say something is any more!

  7. Pecora Nera says:

    Funny funny funny, it is the same over here.

    I taught Mrs Sensible 2 words, Huggins, as in I love you huggins (lots). and fraggle. I feel fraggle. I don’t feel well (fragile)

    She used fraggle when she was teaching Italian at a college in the UK. Boy was I in trouble 🙂

Comments are closed.