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.