You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry

The other day, one of my students made me mad. Hopping mad. Believe it or not, this is actually pretty hard to do. While I am what some might call a bitch little feisty in ‘real life’, in the classroom, I like to think that most of the time, I’m pretty cheerful and well-balanced.

Being an English teacher, one must put up with a lot of irritations. Students forget books, don’t bring a pen or paper, don’t do their homework, arrive late, leave early, don’t put their phones on silent, have phone conversations in the middle of a lesson, interrupt me or another student, don’t write down the pearls of wisdom I impart, cancel 5 minutes before the start of the lesson (or 5 minutes after), answer in monosyllables…

All of these things, I brush off.

There are really only two things you can say to me that will make me angry:

1. English is easy.

Result: A flash of temper and a verbal stomping.Β 

2. English isn’t a rich language.

Result: A ‘red mist’ descends. May God have mercy on your soul.Β 

Let’s get something straight. I LOVE the English language. I practically came out of the womb reading. Before I became an English teacher, I worked as a copywriter for almost 5 years. Saying either of these sentences to me is pretty much the same as telling a mother her baby has a face like a smacked arse.

Okay, you think English is easy? I agree. It’s probably the easiest language in the world to speak – badly. If you say something like “I going on shops yesterday for to buy a breads”, somebody will understand you. English-speaking people, for the most part, are pretty forgiving when it comes to non-native speakers and will, on the whole, make an effort to understand what you’re saying.

The “problem” with English is that it’s everywhere. Songs, movies, TV shows – most people pick up at least a few words. Sorry, but just because you can understand a few episodes of Friends, or sing along with Rihanna, doesn’t mean that you know everything there is to know about the English language.

If you think English isn’t a rich language, it’s because you don’t know enough of it. If you say something like “He walked from A to B”, congratulations. The sentence is grammatically correct and I know that the person you’re referring to made it to his destination on foot. Now tell me – did he amble, did he stroll, did he stride, did he meander, did he plod, did he hotfoot it, did he tiptoe, did he zigzag, did he shuffle, did he limp…? Because each of these verbs conjures up a different image in the mind of the listener.

The fantastic thing about English, and many other languages I’m sure, is that the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I really like my students, and enjoy our lessons. However, there’s one student that, for me, stands head and shoulders above all the others. This woman positively devours the English language.

We meet twice a week but the rest of the time, she’s watching movies, reading books, chatting online, and testing herself on public transport with little cards that she’s made. She never ceases to amaze me with the range of her vocabulary. A few weeks ago, I nearly choked on my tea when she said that she was going to “spend a penny”. Sure, she could have just said that she was going to the toilet, but, for her, that’s too easy.

When she asked me the difference between “small” and “little”, my knee-jerk reaction was to say that they are synonyms. And in a lot of cases, they are. But then again, they’re not. If I told you I owned a small cottage, you’d probably think “Hmm, sounds a little poky, not big enough. Probably not as big as the other cottages in the area.”

If I told you I owned a little cottage, you’d conjure up images of a cosy little place in the countryside with cheerily-lit windows; a home that offers a welcome respite to any weary travellers passing by.

Or maybe you wouldn’t. That’s the beauty of the English language – those little nuances that are lost on most.

That the English language can still make me think like this after close to 36 years of speaking it is what makes it amazing. If you don’t think so, I advise you to keep your opinions to yourself. As you’ll have gathered by now, telling me that English is easy or not a rich language has a rather adverse effect on me.

It angers me, irks me, irritates me, riles me, ticks me off, pushes my buttons, infuriates me, peeves me, exasperates me, enrages me, needles me, provokes me…

You get the idea.




About BerLinda

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

182 Responses to You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry

  1. Pascal Yang says:

    I am writing a little book in French called “La Tyrannie de Langue Anglaise” (The Tyranny of The English Language ) I guess it will sell in france. After you have studied English as a second language almost the whole area of your language learning part of the brain is occupied by English language of course, leaving very little room for French language. And because you keep going back to English when you are trying to form a sentence in french, that gives you problems you are not always aware of in the beginning stage of your study. It seems that the English language keep coming back at you like a stepmother pulling you by the collar. You do not encounter this problem when you have reached advance stage of your study of the french language especially if you have good french teacher and study over long period of time.
    However if you are studying french on your own and only taking short courses you may have problems at beginning stage of your study, because your english stepmother wants you to go back to english.
    The latest discovery of the part of the brain that learns language gave us some ideas of why you must try to gain more space for the french language in that part of the brain. Once that part of the brain get more space for french and start using french expression rather than english you language will improve quickly. The English stepmother has left you for good.
    A good language learner will even mimick the native speakers way of talking. They are observant of the speakers way of talking.

  2. Karina says:

    IN regard to teaching English, it’s A prolonged and sometimes boring process. It requires patience. As for the students, you should cultivate discipline in your class: have them turn off their mobiles, be ready with the home task, respect the teacher, and so on. But learning English is really difficult work. You should keep developing your skills for your whole life, up your level, and you’ll be surprised to find out some unknown stuff again and again. So, good luck.

  3. Pingback: What Does Your Language Suck At? | Lady Of The Cakes

  4. rower says:

    finished reading through comments.
    to summ up – only one link.
    yes, english basics are quite simple (and easy). as soon as one gets past simple things – Toto, it’s not Kansas anymore. beware and be excited. πŸ™‚

    • Expat Eye says:

      Don’t suppose you’re working for the Baltic Times too – I’ve used that analogy in my next article! πŸ™‚
      Great video too!

      • rower says:

        erm, no i’m not working for anyone ATM, just some freelance and my own pocket-size IT company. not really into journalism, however i would consider, if you’re inviting me to write something for TBT πŸ™‚
        as for video – it’s not me. i’m afraid my engrish is much more baltish (WE/Slavic accent, long pauses, strong, french-style R’s, probably even burring, keeping a lot of simple word forms and overusage of complex tenses).

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha, no, I’m not in a position to invite anyone to work there! I’ve only written 2 posts for their blog so far – first ‘real’ article coming next week though! I’m an art critic now πŸ™‚

  5. Kaiva says:

    I think what most people mean when they say that English is easy, is that it is easier to become some what understandable to others than in other languages with less knowledge.
    And people who think English isn’t a rich language probably have learned it by watching simple rom coms and haven’t picked up a decent book neither in English or Latvian.

  6. Nene says:

    Easy peasy! πŸ˜‰ I hear this ALL the time…sigh…

  7. But English IS easy. πŸ˜›
    How else could I have learnt it?

  8. alliblair says:

    Hehe! I also get soooo peeved when I see the most basic of grammatical errors . . . *shudder*

  9. Kaufman's Kavalkade says:

    English is easy.

  10. lizard100 says:

    Your blog is highly entertaining. I’m laughing my aΒ£&e off!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Aw, thank you so much! Great to hear! πŸ™‚

      • lizard100 says:

        Really. You’ve got a talent!

      • Expat Eye says:

        You’re my new favourite follower πŸ˜‰

      • lizard100 says:

        You just seem to sound like so many Irish writers I have read but not like them at the same time. I don’t want to say Marian Keyes cos that’s not necessarily a compliment. But she has the ability to kind of weave a story at length and you so it too! There’s something linguistically flowing over your page.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Wow, thank you! That’s one of the nicest compliments I’ve had! Somebody else called me a ‘Russian fascist’ today though so I don’t get many πŸ˜‰ I’m not quite sure how I was mistaken for a Russian!! Or a fascist, for that matter πŸ˜‰

      • lizard100 says:

        I too am of Irish origin of sorts living in another land whilst attempting to assault their language. My worst faux pas was asking for a nipple instead of a spoon some years back. Now I egg mistaken for someone from the east of the country. What fool would choose words like spoon and nipple and make them lapel and tapel?

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha! “Waiter, my nipple fell on the floor – can I get a clean one?’

        I got leg and seagull mixed up before – kaja and kaija…

      • lizard100 says:

        Eh worse! I need a nipple to stir my tea! Please!……. Here skin and wood are also almost identical hout and houd! Pronounced with a strong ow sound in the middle!

      • Expat Eye says:

        Thanks for the morning laugh! Eating an egg with my nipple now πŸ˜‰

  11. I speak English as a second language so can attest that learning to speak it well takes time. While travelling in Iceland a few years ago, we met a British guy who had been living there for 25 years and we asked him how difficult it had been to learn Icelandic and he gave us this response: “Icelandic takes at least 2 years to learn but then it is easy to master once you got there and then he compared it to learning English which he thought was the opposite: Takes no time at all to learn but an eternity to master because of all of the nuances and complexity of the language” I quite agree with him on English though can’t say anything else on learning Icelandic because we didn’t try…

    • Expat Eye says:

      I tried to say a few sentences in Norwegian the other night – I was so funny/bad that they all fell around laughing and one even recorded me to show his friends – presumably so they could have a good laugh too πŸ˜‰ My attempts at Danish have proven equally comical πŸ˜‰

  12. Daina says:

    Such a great post, and so many great comments, too. (What’s this about you never eaten ‘gotinas’?!?)

    I’ve always been jealous of people who have a natural ear and knack for learning/picking up languages, and had the utmost respect for individuals who really devote themselves to learning a new language. Unfortunately I am a bit lazy when it comes to learning languages, as my main three I picked up the natural way – via immersion as a kid.

    • Expat Eye says:

      My ‘main’ three – show off πŸ˜‰

      And I promise I’ll try the gotinas! I think I may have done in the past but just didn’t know what they were called – or ripped them open too quickly to notice! πŸ™‚

      • Daina says:

        Yeah, well, I don’t have your fantastic sense of humor – one has to show off what one does have. πŸ˜‰ I won’t lie – it is AWESOME to be able to travel to Latvia, Germany and Austria and be able to not just get by, but actually converse and get compliments on my language ability (although my German is awfully rusty nowadays). I can only thank my parents for this — for having always spoken only Latvian at home, and for sending me to a German immersion school beginning with kindergarten. Trust me, I make plenty of mistakes in all three languages, as I’m sure my comments here prove! πŸ™‚ Unfortunately, my knowledge of English grammar is middling at best – many American schools do not excel in their teaching of this important subject!

      • Expat Eye says:

        Shame I can’t get by on my ‘sense of humour’ in loads of different countries πŸ˜‰ Need to get started on German – stat!
        I had a lesson today. The student was given the adjective and had to say the noun:
        Me – tired.
        Him – tiredation, tiredician, tireding, tireded…
        Me – sigh.

  13. TRex says:

    It’s a hair up your arse? A burr under your saddle?

  14. I really applaud you for handling all of the understandable-but-incorrect english you deal with! sometimes I cringe listening to people give up and think that their english is fine as (excrutiatingly-terrible) as it is….this is toootally different that those who are trying to improve or get little ‘him’s and ‘her’s confused (those I find hilarious).

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha, yes, I deal with this one all the time! Talking about their son or husband – she’s/her, talking about their wife/daughter – he’s/his πŸ˜‰ I ask them if their husband (etc.) had a sex change recently – that sorts it out, for at least 5 minutes anyway, until they do it again πŸ˜‰

  15. Maris Ozols says:

    So you haven’t encountered ‘GotiΕ†as’! Get down the Centrāltirgus, where you’ll find them. They are also available in Poland, where they are called ‘Krowka’, which also means ‘Little cow’, just like ‘GotiΕ†a’. Not so keen on the ‘Putnu piens’ though. They are also available in Poland posing as ‘Ptasem Mlecko’, which also means ‘Birds Milk’ just like ‘Putnu Piens’.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I’ll have a look! They look like fudge?

      • Baiba says:

        Actually You can find them in every supermarket, I bet You have even seen them: But, as it was already said, they have to be really fresh, because the sugar in the milk tends to crystallize and then it does not taste so good anymore. The best way to get fresh GotiΕ†as is to press one candy, if it’s soft, than it should be good. It’s not 100 % accurate though. And they are really extremely sweet

      • Expat Eye says:

        Do you know, I think I might have had those – just didn’t look at the name. I was probably too busy eating! I’ll have to make sure though – better buy some more πŸ˜‰

      • Maris Ozols says:

        The quality control is not always up to scratch on Gotiņas. They are not as pleasant when they are crystallized and also when they have not set properly and the goo runs all over your fingers. They also stick to the waxed paper sometimes and are a b****r to get off. As stated, pressing one will give some idea but is not guaranteed.

      • Expat Eye says:

        I’ll try to be very careful – choosing and eating!

  16. Glynis Jolly says:

    Do you really think the English language is easy? Didn’t you say you’re from Ireland? You must know that English is about as complicated as it gets. What you speak in Ireland you don’t speak in England or Wales. What you speak on your side of the ocean you don’t speak on my side. And even on my side, if you’re in Canada it’s still a little different than in the US. On top of it all, English steals from so many other languages. I believe that Spanish is the easiest language to learn.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I don’t think English is easy at all! People just think that it’s easy – probably because they’re dealing with other non-native speakers who are making mistakes too, or with native speakers who make an effort to understand what they’re saying.

      As for the country to country thing, it varies so much from county to county, from state to state! I was in the Midlands in England last year for a few weeks, and half the time I thought they were speaking a different language! πŸ™‚

    • rigaenglish says:

      As I said below, I really don’t see how anyone figures out that Spanish is easy to learn. It has more verb tenses than English, those verb tenses also change their form (played in English has six equivalents in Spanish) more grammatical articles, two genders, two verbs for basic English verbs like “to be”, “to have” and “to know”, more demonstrative pronouns and more complicated imperative forms. As for different accents, Peruvian Spanish and the Spanish they speak in different cities of Spain are totally different things. What aspects of Spanish so you reckon are easier?

      Personally, I reckon Swedish is one of the easiest languages for an English speaker to learn. A lot of the vocabulary is the same as English or easily guessable, there are no continuous forms, the verbs don’t change, even for the equivalent of he/she/it and even the irregular verb forms are often the same as in English: drick/drack/druckit or spring/sprang/sprungit, much easier to remember!

  17. barbedwords says:

    Agree with everything you said! Two things drive me mad in Italy: 1) when someone in e.g. a bakery looks at you like you’re speaking gobbledegook when you ask for half a loaf of bread and has to call for reinforcements to help understand what on earth this mad foreigner is attempting to say (this actually happens to me in my local shop). I’m in a bakery, I’m pointing at a loaf of bread, what the hell do you think I’m talking about??? And 2) when our Italian teacher used to tell us that English didn’t have as many descriptive words as Italian and that our language wasn’t as varied. Well, I could think of quite a few descriptive ways to tell her to go boil her head!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha ha, even boil your head is fantastic! Yeah, I get the same thing here in bakeries – I’m pointing at the cake and saying its name and they panic and call over someone else!

  18. bevchen says:

    I read somewhere that English is one of the hardest languages to learn properly… but sadly learning enough to get by is easy, and people seem to think if they can make themselves understood their English must be amazing.

    People thinking English is easy/anyone can speak it is the reason SO many of our clients like to argue about the translations we do for them. “You wrote *X* in this document. Please tell your native speaker translator that that’s wrong… it should be *something random that makes no sense whatsoever*. I got top marks in English at school so I know these things!”

  19. Cindi says:

    As I struggle to learn Norwegian, I find crawling into the English language in blogs and books, and burying myself in the familiar words and phrases and speech patterns, a huge cozy blanket of familiarity.

    English is hard. Damn hard. I remember struggling with grammar rules too many years ago. But I’m so glad it’s my native tongue. Especially now, as it’s understood by so many — it’s such a comfort.

    This post — and the language subject — is a delight, a warm pleasure, a joyful read, a familiar calmness, a contentment.

    And it’s over way too soon. Back to Norwegian homework.

  20. ooh.. now I am really starting to feel bad about my English πŸ˜€ Hopefully one day I will master it.

    About the Latvians. Have you noticed what happens in public places when a Russian speaking person asks something to Latvian? We Latvians almost always switch to Russian and I find it so wrong. We give up on our own language.
    Do you have some Latvian friends with whom you speak in Latvian?

    • Expat Eye says:

      I don’t speak Russian at all so I do try to practise my Latvian with my Latvian friends – usually, they switch to English as well though. I have noticed that about Latvians switching to Russian also! I wrote a post about it ages ago – I think it’s called The Russian Rant πŸ˜‰

    • rigaenglish says:

      One of my friends here is Russian and once, when we went out, she asked for something in Latvian and the waitress replied to her in Russian. I asked her about that and she told me it happens a lot. She told me that often when she speaks to Latvians in the city centre in Latvian, they hear her accent and switch to Russian. So now she just speaks English to them as she says at least she can practice that! I really don’t get it, like when I went to Stockholm and spoke Swedish there, to my amazement everyone answered me back in Swedish and the average Swede has a much higher level of English than a Latvian.

  21. Mr Kev says:

    Spent the whole of this read nodding. πŸ™‚
    But where was “stagger” in your list of “walking” verbs!? πŸ˜›

  22. rigaenglish says:

    I’ve never got why many in this part of the world say that Spanish is easier than English. The things they complain about being most difficult in English are tenses, articles and conditionals. Spanish has more tenses (subjunctive forms and an extra past perfect) and they usually change their form: I/you/she/we/you+/they played is the more complicated juguΓ©/jugaste/jugΓ³/jugamos/jugasteis/jugaron in Spanish. There are eight articles in Spanish (compared to 3 in English) and dependent on gender, which English ignores. Conditional forms in Spanish are formed effectively the same way as English conditionals, with if+past perfect. Even basic verbs in English like to be/to have and to know have two separate verbs in Spanish, which are used in different situations. How is that easier?

    Some of my *ahem* favourite questions are things like “I don’t hear people use (articles/past perfect/conditionals/form which the student can’t be arsed to learn) these days” or “Are you sure?” (No, my three and a half decades plus of being a native English speaker were all worthless: all the classes I had had had had no effect on me.)

    • Expat Eye says:

      My personal favourite is ‘Maybe this is correct in American English?’. No. It isn’t. πŸ™‚

    • Spanish is quite easy to learn for Latvians. Yes, it has two genders, but Latvians are used to the idea remembering the gender. Verb conjugations are pretty regular. Even most irregular ones are actually quire regular in their own group. Reflexive verbs are quite similar to Latvian ones. Verbal subjunctive mood has some similarities to varbΕ«tΔ«bas izteiksme. Not quite but it is easy for Latvian speakers to get the head around. And the pronunciation is also quite easy although I find Latin American Spanish clearer than Castellano. And most important it has phonetic spelling.

  23. nancytex2013 says:

    Rant on woman! I agree with every word, but this particularly resonated with me: “English-speaking people, for the most part, are pretty forgiving when it comes to non-native speakers and will, on the whole, make an effort to understand what you’re saying.”

    This is so, so true. And, in contrast, the experience with other cultures is sometimes so different. Dutch comes to mind. During both of my trips to Amsterdam I made effort to use Dutch when asking for directions, or ordering something. Dutch is not the easiest language (for fuck’s sake, a single word can have 24 letters in it), but I usually have a pretty good ear for languages, so I always give it the old college try. Not one time was I met with an empathetic recipient of my attempt-at-Dutch. Each time they (feigned?) complete ignorance at what I was trying to say. I am hard-pressed to believe I butchered the language to the extent that they didn’t even get the gist of my intent. So different to the experience you describe above with English speaking folk trying to understand the broken English of non-native speakers.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ugh, I get the same thing here all the time. Even something as simple as asking for a black tea with milk is met with an incredibly rude ‘WHAT?’ and then they switch to English. I’ve given up, to be honest. They seem genetically predisposed to be incapable of understanding a foreigner speaking Latvian. It’s incredibly frustrating, particularly given what I do. I listen to butchered English all the time and can always work out what the person is trying to say with just a little effort.

    • rigaenglish says:

      That drives me up the wall as well. I bought bus tickets here in Riga last year. I had to speak to her 5 times in Latvian before she finally spoke it to me. It wasn’t that she didn’t understand my Latvian either as she would respond to my Latvian questions with English replies! For people who complain so much about people that “live in Latvia” not speaking their language, they don’t really make a huge effort to help people doing it. My confidence in Russian was also wrecked a bit here, as people would actually laugh at me. It was only after I went down to central Asia, spoke it there and wasn’t treated like an imbecile that I got the confidence back.

      • nancytex2013 says:

        Same experience for me in Holland. I’ve found other countries much more forgiving and appreciative of the attempts to use their language. Italy, France, Greece, Spain were all gracious at my attempts to converse in their languages.

  24. Two of my non-native speaking friends would beg to differ with that student. They said that English was a very difficult language for them to learn and they still are learning it.

  25. It’s really hard to explain those little nuances, and some of it is so regional people can argue for hours. But yes, these little nuances are what makes the difference between being conversational and being good. Even amongst native speakers, there are those who more or less get by on it and various levels of competence above, as we all know!

  26. pollyheath says:

    This is so true. Russians are very fond of saying just how rich and full their language is and that English is just lackluster in comparison. Funny, all those people are in MY English classes stumbling through basic phrases.

    I think every language is inherently a complex, wonderful thing but, you know, haters gonna hate.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Funnily enough the student that said English wasn’t rich was Latvian; the lady who spends her life learning English is a Russian. On asking me that ‘little/small’ thing, she was like ‘why did I never notice that before?’ and that’s the difference between someone who wants to be excellent and someone who wants to get by. I’m going to be teaching two Russian kids for the summer by the way – wish me luck! πŸ˜‰

  27. I love this post Linda! So true and makes me feel so in love all over with English. My husband doesn’t understand why I always tell him he’s so impressive when it comes to English. But while he learned some in school years ago, he only knew that small amount when he started working for the USAF. He taught himself to be fluent in writing, reading and speaking English. But it’s not just his proficiency in grammar that’s always amazed me, but that he picked up the slang and the idioms. I think that’s so etimes the hardest part when you’re learning a new language. You’d never know that English is his second language.

    And I love the things he points out that are so funny and I really can’t explain. He was trying to surprise me once and said “here’s a hint” but he said hint like pint. I laughed and explained and then he asked why they are spelled the same, but pronounced differently. I told him, “that’s English”.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Sometimes that is the only answer!! Or try explaining something like ‘bow’ (that you tie in a ribbon) and ‘bow’ (take a). Or why ‘bough’ is pronounced in exactly the same way… Funny language πŸ˜‰

  28. Anna says:

    I love English. I particularly enjoy what I call the ‘high content’ value of its words – how one word can be used as a noun or adjective or a verb, and can mean a hundred different things based on the content.

    We have this running joke, at work, that goes sort of like “damn you Anna and your English!” Usually it comes up when we’re writing press releases, the titles of which have to be pithy and high-content. Obvs I am responsible for the English version. A typical ‘interview-based’ PR will sound something like this: “PUTIN TO NATO: STAY OUT OF SYRIA.” The Russian department has to put out their version, and at its most curt what you see above becomes 3 times as many words, and – bc Russian words are on average 30% longer than English (someone did a comparative study of languages like this, it’s fascinating) – two and a half lines long. So yes, they be jealous πŸ˜›

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ha ha! Yes I notice that with movies here! While the English version says something like ‘Suitable for viewers over 18. Contains mild swearing.’, the Russian version covers the entire screen!!

  29. Gypsy says:

    I loved this. As a French Canadian who grew up speaking French at home and Spanish and English at school, I find myself the occasional victim of the subtleties of the English language. My husband is usually the one who will pick up on it … those little things that might otherwise go unnoticed to a non-native English speaker. Like “close the lights” rather than “turn off the lights”. English is most definitely a rich language.
    But it could still be perfected with one little tweak: find a word for the “white part of the bread” (“la mi” in French). The English place far too little importance on the importance of bread … it’s about so much more than just the crust!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Ooh, interesting! As far as I’m aware there is no word for that in English but then, I’m no foodie πŸ˜‰ Trust the French to have one though!! I love French too – such a beautiful language.

      • June says:

        The inner part is called the crumb, ladies. (Yes, I know that’s what we call a tiny bit that breaks off, but it’s also the correct name for the central, non-crust part of the loaf!)
        This has been a customer service announcement! πŸ˜‰

      • Expat Eye says:

        I did not know that! Cool, thanks! πŸ™‚

  30. June says:

    Oh, I love it! I could rant all day on this myself. The other day I opened this link and had a rant at the screen for 10 minutes. Who writes this stuff? Firstly, pick US or UK English and then stick with it – please do not use both “jewelry” and “jewellery”. The first paragraph alone had me fuming. I can’t understand why major organisations like the LT Tourist Board can’t hire people who can actually speak English. (I’m available, by the way.)
    The biggest sources of frustration for me (being me) are menus and food labels. No, the drink is not “Lemon Taste”, it’s “Lemon Flavour”. The two words are not synonyms. But I lose the will to live trying to explain the difference. I see the word “champignons” on menus all the time and it drives me cracked. “Champignons” is the generic French word for mushrooms. It is not an English word. It is certainly not an English word for a specific variety of mushroom. (It might *technically* be in the dictionary, but it is not used by native English speakers. I have never, ever seen it on a menu outside of the Baltics.) Those particular mushrooms are called “button mushrooms” or “white mushrooms”. The plural of “toast” is “toast”, not “toasts”. It is not “especially mild mozzarella”, it is “extra mild mozzarella”. I could go on all day. My heart is thumping just thinking about it!
    I remember when I was doing my TEFL, one of the tutors mentioned that “Eastern Europeans” (her term, not mine) had an unusually high aptitude for learning languages. I was insulted as a non-Eastern European that my natural aptitude had been slighted! However, 10 years later I do feel there is some truth in her statement – they do seem to take words in quite quickly. But that’s for conversational English. The nuances, the beauty, is missing. It is perhaps part of that cultural divide that makes Latvians and Lithuanians seem a little cold to us – they just don’t use flowery language. A spade is a spade is a spade. Why use another word when you can convey the meaning with “spade”. They use English the same way that they use their own language, which is fair enough as long as they’re aware that they’re only using a fraction of the language’s capability.
    Right, I’ve rambled for long enough. Time for a few cleansing breaths and back to my reading I’ll go. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yes, Latvians aren’t the most flowery of people either πŸ˜‰ And it definitely shows in their English. Mistakes in menus etc. drive me nuts – and they’re so common! Does nobody ever check anything?! Whenever I use a Swedbank ATM, it asks me if I would like receipt – I want to punch the screen πŸ˜‰

      Ahhhh, it’s good to rant πŸ˜‰

    • Ah, June that thing with taste written all over labels instead of flavor is a such common mistake and has been for the last 20 years, and since even some major producers can’t come up with the fix whenever they make new labels, I think that this has since might have become some sort of an intentious joke. Still no matter how ill-used taste is, this IMO is better than using ‘the best we have’ where ‘our finest’ should be, or using ridiculous term of ‘cow candy flavor’ where that of butterscotch should go πŸ˜€

      • Expat Eye says:

        Cow candy?! πŸ™‚

      • oh yeah πŸ™‚ there is a variety of toffee candies , which is bears a name of ‘little cow’, karvutΔ— in Lithuanian, and I believe gotina in Latvian.

      • Expat Eye says:

        I don’t believe I’ve come across it but must try to find it!

      • that was my favorite candy when I was just a wee one πŸ™‚ of cause not every cow candy is a good cow candy though, IMO only the really fresh ones with the quite runny filling are the thing to die for. Haven’t eaten them recently, and I think that I might just need to freshen my memory and check it out whether they’re still any good nowadays πŸ˜‰

      • Expat Eye says:

        Sounds like a nice mission πŸ˜‰

      • I’d definitely like to get your feedback on Linda’s MI: Cow Candy πŸ™‚
        It reminded me of my own mission impossible, when some foreigners asked me what flavor is ‘bird milk’ sweets, and for my dear life I could not come up with any coherent answer but that of ‘um, that’s fluffy white filling…’ and only much later came to a conclusion that ‘bird milk’ is or is a variety of soufflΓ© πŸ˜€

      • Expat Eye says:

        This just keeps getting weirder πŸ˜‰

      • June says:

        Brilliant! I haven’t come across cow candy yet! Or bird milk! I’ve so much still to learn!

    • bevchen says:

      Oh God… toast! In Germany, there’s a special kind of bread that is used for making toast. It’s called “Toastbrot”, but most people just refer to it as toast. I’ve given up trying to explain to people that, in English, toast is what comes OUT of the toaster… not what goes in!

  31. Edijs says:

    Surely English is a diverse language but definitely one of he easiest major languages on practical level. I’ve been part time teaching Latvian to foreigners for a while and a you compare these 2 languages it is fairly easy to see the striking differences in complexity of Latvian grammar since there are more complex/larger amount of grammar rules in the same sentence – verb endings, case endings, participles, various different moods for verbs to express what the regular tenses cannot express and many more.

  32. kalnina says:

    You canΒ΄t be offended if someone says English is easy, because it is – grammar wise, in comparison to languages with cases (at least for someone with ‘language earsΒ΄ as they say in Danish) but it is by no means simple. Of course people without Β΄language earsΒ΄ would never even know the difference between simple and easy…

    • Expat Eye says:

      Language ears πŸ˜‰ I like that! I think people think English grammar is easy yet the vast majority still can’t put together a conditional sentence to save their lives πŸ˜‰

  33. freebutfun says:

    I find English super easy to make mistakes in πŸ˜‰

    The one thing I find even harder than vocabulary (to me “you make do with what you have” and as long as other people understand me without getting a headache in the process, I’m happy) is the way to express things.

    Like the other day, when we at work had to give (=they asked for it, poor guys) feedback to our fellow Americans. People were pretty upset with them for a poorly made job, so my colleagues wanted to be frank. But to me, them being frank in English sounded outrageously rude, even though it would have been quite ok to say the same thing in Finnish. Trying to explain that “yes, translated word by word, that is what you say, but the meaning of the whole thing is not the same anymore” is damn hard.

    • Expat Eye says:

      ‘Polite’ English is a whole other ball game! I’ve spent hours here trying to explain that while something may be OK in Latvian, if you said it in English, you’d sound like a total bitch πŸ˜‰ Things like ‘could you please…’ and ‘would you mind…’ – most people here think they’re pointless and a waste of breath. Hard to explain otherwise!

      • freebutfun says:

        Another funny thing as a Finnish never-really-made an-effort-to-learn-proper English speaker (mandatory to have English at school from the age of 11 for me) and the only non-native speaker in a team in Australia was to realise that I was often the one to check the spelling in the texts going out. There is some irony there, even though Finnish really does help to spell any language pretty well (not so helpful for a good pronunciation though..;)).But I will never forget how I tried to explain to an American teacher that the room where you cook is not spelled “kition”.

      • Expat Eye says:

        Wow, that is so bad!! I remember one student kept getting kitchen and chicken mixed up. Cracked me up!

      • freebutfun says:

        Hihi, I hear myself telling the kids “not to make a mess in the chicken” πŸ˜€

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha! Or to eat their kitchen πŸ™‚

  34. I believe that part of the problem is that people take English for granted. “I don’t need to learn another language as long as I know English”. Nobody learns French or Spanish due to necessity, they do it because they’re passionate about it, something that I don’t think anyone could say about the English language, mainly because it is very “mainstream”.

    • Expat Eye says:

      I hope that at least some people are passionate about it! That’s a very depressing thought!! But yes, I’m sure that most people learn it because they need it for work/travel etc.

  35. English easy? When I taught English at the university in Slovakia, my students had already learned German,Spanish, Italian, and Russian. “What is the most difficult to learn?” I asked. The answer was immediate “English!”
    I was the English Department Chair at an all-boys’ high school, and it was time to hire a new teacher. One male candidate said, “Anybody can teach English.” Do you think he got the job ? Sure, and pigs and horses can fly.

    • Expat Eye says:

      Yeah, I know a few people here who’ve made that mistake! They think that because they’re a native speaker, they can teach. Wrong. Some students say that they want ‘conversation’ lessons, but they all have questions about the language sooner or later. And most people just can’t answer them – why did you use ‘the’ there instead of ‘a’? Good luck explaining that one πŸ˜‰

  36. I’m not a native speaker but English is taught here from preschool to college and yet, I still struggle!

    • Expat Eye says:

      Me too πŸ˜‰ I’m frequently stumped by students’ questions! Trying to explain things that are just ‘natural’ to a native speaker is horribly difficult! I’m learning new things about the language every day! So for a student to tell me that they know it all… GRRRRR πŸ˜‰

  37. This hits the nail on the head. My favorite part is explaining idioms to non native speakers. That’s when they really start to fluster πŸ™‚

  38. Evija says:

    English _is_ easy. If you want to say “I have a cat” and “one donut”, sans the please.
    I could list much more reasons why English is actually pretty hard, even without the vocab. And list a thousand people on the Internet who are native speakers, but don’t know a thing.
    Not rich? Sure, it doesn’t have the bazillion gazillion insane structures and punctuation Latvian has. But I’ve found I can’t find the equivalent in Latvian for an English word more often than the other way around.

    But then again, students are a notoriously annoying group of people in general. I want to smack half my class with a shovel sometimes, I really do (it’s university – should I say “course”?)

    Anyways, love reading the blog, and happy upcoming St Patrick’s πŸ™‚

    • Expat Eye says:

      Thank you! Happy St. Patrick’s to you too! πŸ™‚

      I couldn’t say that I want to smack my students with a shovel… although yesterday a Norwegian teacher I know told me that his entire class hated me (because of the blog) so I wouldn’t mind letting loose with a shovel in that room πŸ˜‰

      And yes, don’t even get me started on native speakers not knowing the language… That annoys me far more than non-native speakers’ mistakes!

      • Evija says:

        Bahahah, is he teaching in Riga? I’m not surprised in that case.
        People who do that are annoying in every language. As in, I don’t expect everyone to know complex and almost always debatable punctuation issues, but I do expect people to know proper spelling of common words.
        Such as the irony of writing “stulbs” as “stΕ«lbs” (stupid, for those who know zero Latvian).

      • Expat Eye says:

        Spelling ‘stupid’ incorrectly in any language is a huge faux pas πŸ˜‰ And yes, I have to say that while there are a lot of English ‘teachers’ here, there are very few good ones. πŸ˜‰

      • Evija says:

        I think I might have broken wordpress, but anyway:
        Yes! There’s a load of awful English teachers. Or courses, like those in universities. Worst waste of my time ever. But my friend has it even worse – she has a Russian native English teacher whose pronounciation makes me cringe every time I read her posts on fb where she mentions this.
        Well, “author” = osa, “located” = “lokyaited”, “duodenum” = “dyuadyenum”. The horror. And that one claims to be a top university.

      • Expat Eye says:

        At one of the schools I teach at, I can hear the Latvian English teachers through the wall. I end up really distracted, inserting articles where they’ve dropped them, mentally screaming ‘SAY NOT TELL’ and mouthing the correct prepositions πŸ˜‰ Once, I literally burst out laughing when the teacher was drilling ‘men – weeeeeeemen’. When my students asked what I was laughing at, I said that in Scottish English, she was basically teaching them ‘men’/’little men’ =D

      • Evija says:

        ohdeargodwhy πŸ˜€

      • Expat Eye says:

        Why not? πŸ˜‰

  39. So where’s this small or little cottage of yours then..?

    • Expat Eye says:

      Unfortunately, it’s in the very fertile land of my imagination πŸ˜‰ Wanna come and stay over?!

      • Sure! Why not. By the way, Happy St Patrick’s Day. Shouldn’t you be out boozing instead of complaining..?

      • Expat Eye says:

        I think I’m getting old. It’s snowing and there’s a gale-force wind and I really just can’t be arsed πŸ˜‰ I went out for a couple of pints earlier, was nearly blown into the road several times on my way to the pub, got drenched by lovely drivers… Now I’m on my sofa with a nice, warming glass of red and if you gave me a million euros, I don’t think I’d move!!

  40. Who ever thinks that English is easy or not rich is indeed very much mistaken. Yeah, when it comes to just learning some very bare basics, it might seem like an easy task, but going in deeper it ain’t all that easy anymore. I for once struggled with the language a lot at school, probably cause we had very lousy teachers at my school, and if it weren’t for my love of reading and a very tough professor at the university, my English might be at the same level as my French, that is I’d be able to say hello and farewell, and that would be all. Luckily for me, that professor was hard on my back, and I really wanted to read some great books, which either never were translated to my native language either were translated so horribly that I’ve felt this urge to get to the source material. Otherwise I might have never met Jane Austen, Doctor Who, and some other smaller or greater gems born in the islands or on the other side of the great pond πŸ˜‰

    • Expat Eye says:

      I really wish more people read. And no, not tripe like 50 Shades of Grey – REAL books, not written by authors with the vocabulary of a mentally disturbed 6-year-old. Watching American sitcoms is fine but there’s only so much you can learn from them! If you really want to know the language, and get to grips with its subtleties, then read. You’re lucky you had that professor!

      • well, i did not think I was lucky at the time. Since I was a student of history, that professor was determined to teach us profession English, and damn but that WAS hard, and while other groups were taking it easy, we ended up learning some tough English and burying ourselves in piles of dictionaries just in order to do some homework. Learning the many names of all sorts of different battle axes, archaeological digs, or about some medieval customs was pure hell at the time. Though the payout was and still is tremendous and satisfying. If after graduating from school I was wobbling in English at the best, after those classes I felt I was almost a native English speaker only with some sodden accent to spice things up πŸ˜€

      • Expat Eye says:

        Ha ha, yeah, everyone loves English with a sexy Eastern/Northern European accent!! πŸ™‚ Your vocab on that kind of stuff is probably far richer than mine – I’d be totally lost!

  41. Aaaah, this has to be my absolute favourite rant of the week. No, make that this year. Or, possibly, ever.

    Only a few months ago, a friend of mine uttered this infuriatingly fallacious statement, i.e. that English wasn’t a rich language. “No, it isn’t for you,” I replied, “coz you know about 2,000 words, if that…” Not that I meant to put her down, but a moronic statement demands a befitting comeback. End of.

    I think it’s true that English is one of the easier languages to learn to communicate in effectively. But that’s as far as it goes. Actually speaking it well and eloquently is another matter. Non-native, intermediate-level speakers talking to each other in English usually manage to get their points across fairly well, but when confronted with a competent speaker who doesn’t deliberately moderate their English (e.g. by simplifying their vocab and avoiding the use of expressions and colourful phrasal verbs), they’re totally stumped. Hence the confounding experience most learners suffer when they arrive in an English speaking country for the first time, realising, to their horror that, in fact, they know nothing, despite having successfully navigated through a recent holiday in Morocco.

    Before my spin-off rant exceeds the length of your post, I think I’d better stop…

    • Expat Eye says:

      Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you for this comment! It’s good to know I’m not alone! Several of my students have told me stories like this – they have pretty good English, Upper-Intermediate to Advanced level and are used to listening to BBC English or the American equivalent. Then they move to Australia – or Liverpool. Good luck πŸ˜‰

      How did your friend take your ‘feedback’? πŸ™‚

      • She took it fine. After we had a little conversation about it, she saw my point. She’s not actually stupid (not even a bit!), she just hadn’t thought about this issue in depth before.

      • June says:

        Then they move to Kerry or Donegal – or Inverness. Good luck indeed!

      • Expat Eye says:

        πŸ™‚ In my Germany post, the one person I had trouble understanding was from Cork πŸ˜‰

      • LigaFromRiga says:

        I had a diploma as a Teacher of English in Latvia, had a couple of years of experience teaching and working for a UK based company at the same time. Decided to leave everything and move to Wales. And couldn’t understand a word of the locals for several months. After more than 5 years I finally get most of the people. Except for drunk Irish guys πŸ™‚

      • Expat Eye says:

        They’re a breed unto themselves πŸ˜‰ A friend of mine moved to Australia and had to basically start from scratch – took her around 6 months before she could understand anything! G’day! πŸ™‚

  42. bmagpub says:

    And quite often, I get discombobulated too! How can we not like a language that has words like this, and osculate, and uxuriate? Also, when one has insults that sound good – like calling someone meretricious? Another wonders of the English language – aside from the issues of semantics, is the syntax. With a lot of non english languages, the syntax remains constant (I like japanese because the verbs (almost) always comes at the ned, and you can tell past/present, +ve/-ve, imperative, etc from that. Not so with English. And it goes on. Indeed, most languages are interesting, and almost always a lot more complex the more you know – and then you get into idiomatic usage like “spend a penny”. I love language(s). Happy day!

  43. The next time someone tells you that English is easy, enter them in a spelling bee. Because of the language’s diverse word origins, it’s considerably more difficult in that regard than a lot of other languages.

    • Expat Eye says:

      So true! And just one more thing I love about the language! I don’t know if they have spelling bees in LV… I’ll send them to America!

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