LANGUAGE CHECK POINTS
There is a lack of language barriers here. Provided one holds a passport, hardly an eyebrow is raised as one steps across a linguistically-inclined border.
I was talking to man today out the front of an ice cream shop (if they waited until it was summer to have ice creams here it would never happen), and he was holding two other conversations at the same time. To me he was talking in English, to his children in French and his children’s friends in German.
He said that Europe was amazing because you could drive ten kilometres and experience a completely different culture and hear a completely different language. “With all that English, Australia is a little bit boing,” he said.
“If I’m in a shop or on the street talking French no one looks at me funny,” he added. “We’re much more tolerant in Europe of all the languages. It’s the Americans who aren’t.
“They go everywhere and they expect to be understood. They demand it. But in Europe it doesn’t always work like that.
“In Belgium you go into a shop and expect not to be understood. We’re much more aware of it.”
He then turned to his kids and asked them something about ice cream, and then translated the same question for his kids’ friends in German. He did it effortlessly, and it wasn’t out of the ordinary.
Perhaps any country that currently has ambitions of joining the European Union should take a look at the physical currency – the actual stuff that will be in circulation.
This week I was out riding a bike in the rain with my wallet in my pocket. It reached the stage where I was directionally dazed and the ride became longer than it was first intended. The wallet, which contained some bank notes, got a bit wet – but the bank notes got a bit soaked.
I’m used to the plastic stuff – the “it can go through the wash”, “leave it the rain”, “won’t burn, but might melt” sort of thing.
This was the first time that I had a line of bank notes across the top of a heater.
But it isn’t just the bank notes. The coins are infuriating, too. I know see why Australia got rid of one and two cent pieces: they’re just annoying. They’re too small, too useless, and really, they’re just a waste of time.
There are some expressions which can’t be translated. As an example, it isn’t said that you “like” someone here – that state in which you can only thing about a certain person, constantly plan to ask them out, then put it off, and then watch on as they fall for someone else and get on with their life – it’s said that you “stand next to them”. I like the German equivalent, and I wonder whether it is borne out of pure observation, because when it is common knowledge that someone “likes” someone else, they’re always trying to orchestrate situations so that they can, indeed, stand next to them.
These difficulties are facing the English teacher here and so I’ve been asked to help put together a lesson on English idiom. “What we really say when…”
So, I’m looking for suggestions. What do you think these aspiring English speakers should know? What key phrases should they be told about so that they understood the full breadth of our language psyche? What bizarre phrases are necessary in everyday English conversation?
I have some ideas (which I’ll share shortly), but would like some input. Please, comment below or flick me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.