La langue anglaise

During this half term break, I began an online course to learn how to teach English as a foreign language. If you are a non-Brit who has chosen to learn English, you are a true hero. Every part of the English language, without exception, is an absolute horror. However, these were the worst parts for me:

Firstly, none of the terminology is the same as it is when I teach French. So what I call the imperfect is the past continuous, and what I call the pluperfect is (I think) the past perfect. Are we all keeping up so far?

Secondly, adjective order is a thing. Native speakers somehow instinctively know what sounds right, for instance, “Louis Catorze caught a huge, fat, brown rat” rather than “… a brown, fat, huge rat”. So size comes first, then shape, then colour. But there are other categories, too: opinion, age, origin, substance and use/function, e.g. “Louis Catorze caught a horrible, huge, old, fat, brown, English, curly-haired, sewer-dwelling rat.” If someone were to give me the words I am sure I would be able to order them correctly. But if they were to ask whether origin came before or after substance, I wouldn’t have the faintest idea without checking.

Thirdly: conditionals. These are quite the most awful things ever. There are four of them altogether and, just to make our lives harder, instead of calling them First, Second, Third and Fourth, we call them Zero, First, Second and Third. So if you see/hear an example and you recognise it as the fourth of the four types that you studied, in actual fact it’s the Third. The third is the Second, and the second is the First. I know. I KNOW.

Zero Conditional is used for something that is factually true all the time: “If I teach online lessons, Louis Catorze misbehaves.”

First Conditional is used for something that is likely but hasn’t happened yet in this case: “If I teach this online lesson, Louis Catorze will misbehave.”

Second Conditional is for something hypothetical yet still with a predictable consequence: “If were to teach an online lesson, Louis Catorze would misbehave.”

Third Conditional is for looking back, possibly with regret, at something that didn’t go as planned: “Had I not been teaching online lessons, Louis Catorze would not have misbehaved.” (Well, we all know that he would have just found another way/reason, but you get the idea.)

There are also Mixed Conditionals which can refer to regrets over actions which continue to affect the present: “Had Louis Catorze behaved during that online lesson, I would not be crying into a vodka bottle right now.”

Anyway, I now need another week off to recover from my training. And Catorze did his best to ruin it – screaming, headbutting the laptop, the usual nonsense – but what he didn’t know was that it consisted of pre-recorded videos, not live Zoom calls. So, although he could see and hear Alan and Joe (his two favourite trainers), they could neither see nor hear him.

Here he is, smug in the belief that he humiliated me in front of actual people (again), when in fact I had the last laugh:

He couldn’t give a hoot about English and expects everyone to speak French.

35 thoughts on “La langue anglaise

  1. I’m eternally grateful that when I taught English, it was to students who already had a decent grasp, and our curriculum was focused on communication not grammar! I couldn’t have done it otherwise. Best of luck!

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    1. Past historic is really weird, because it’s called le passé simple in French and nothing about it is simple. Reading it is bloody hard work, and it bears no resemblance to the simple past in English.

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    1. You most certainly don’t, do you? You use “already” as an interjection when it’s, in fact, an adverb. And you invent nonsense words such as “bachelorette”. You Americans have a lot to answer for … or should that be “You Americans have a lot for which you should answer”, since you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition? 🤣🤣🤣

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            1. That makes sense. And now that I think about it, it’s more um than yum, the y comes from the I-U… er… diphthong? The way your mouth moves. Kind of like how you get a b when you say m in some words, even though you aren’t trying for a b. I dunno, my English teacher never really taught us what things are called or even how they worked lol.

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  2. “Past continuous” actually makes more sense to me than “imperfect,” and I wish that had been the term taught to me. I think learning any language is a bit of a nightmare. I studied French from Grade 1 until Grade 13 (last year of high school) and now I’m taking lessons to improve on what I already know, and omg does it seem arbitrary at times. Never mind that I have to learn genders of inanimate objects– also seemingly arbitrary. Of course, I don’t have a cat screaming at me while I’m trying to learn– I’m sure that doesn’t help anything 🙂

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    1. The genders are just bizarre and I struggle to explain them to kids because they don’t understand why. Why is “make-up” masculine and “beard” feminine? That’s the question I’ve been asked around 8,053 times in my teaching career.

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        1. They also ask me why inanimate things have genders. I always say that long ago they thought of the earth as female, the moon as female and the sun as male, and then they decided to name other things too. (I know this isn’t what happened but they’d just ask endless questions otherwise and we’d get nothing done!)

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            1. Haha, yes, good point! It’s quite strange thinking that, as from the week after next, my students and Catorze won’t be seeing each other anymore. I think he’s missed having people come over, hence why he was drawn to the voices. He *LOVES* having visitors.

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            2. Well, according to the government’s “road map” (a stupid name as it’s not a map and there aren’t any roads on it) we can have 2 households mix outdoors from 29th March, although we aren’t rushing into anything. We’d like to at least have our vaccines first and then see how things are. Hope you have been coping well with things.

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            3. I’ve been managing but I’m ready for all this to be over (which I don’t expect to happen before September at least). Eagerly awaiting my turn for a vaccine, but also worried about how many people are insisting they won’t get it at all.

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