Pacifist Peas #ESOL

In my first ever post on this blog, I talked about how I teach English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). I mentioned a then-recent student who, when I would say “I’ve got an ear-ache”, would say it back to me as, “I vee be gooser you-near-eck”. ESOL teachers get this kind of random nonsense a lot; it’s our job, after all. But I got another one yesterday which will surely live long in the memory.

A student comes up to me after class and says, “Sir*, can you please tell us more about pacifist peas in the next class?”

“Pacifist peas?”
“Yes, pacifist peas”
“Erm… what?”
“Pacifist peas, Sir”
“What are pacifist peas?”
“Pacifist peas. Y’know… pacifist peas
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re saying. Can you say it again, please?”
“Pacifist peas”
“Pacifist peas?”
(nods) “Pacifist peas”
“Err…”
(incredulously) “You don’t know what pacifist peas are!? You’re a teacher!”
“I’m really sorry, but I think it’s the way you’re saying it. Can you say it more slowly?”
“Okay, Sir. Pacifist. Peas**”
“I’m really not getting this mate”
“Sir!? Verbs, nouns, prepositions…”

My brain starts ticking over.

“Ahh! Parts of speech!
“Yes! Pacifist peas”
“Say ‘speech'”
“Iss peas”
“Okay”

Cue a long heart-to-heart with me trying to reassure him that his English isn’t that bad and making mistakes is a vital part of the learning process. And look, look how many mistakes you’ve made; you’ll be fluent in no time(!)

So what does this tale tell us? Firstly, that teaching ESOL can be good banter. Secondly, that all language is context-dependent. In summary: I would definitely recommend a career in ESOL to anyone who has the following unique mix of traits: loves helping people, is up for a laugh, wants to travel the world, is fascinated by language and communication, profoundly enjoys poverty.

*I teach a lot of Asian guys, and they tend to be very deferential even when you act all cool-teacher and say, “Call me ‘Bry’!”. Their answer is, of course, “Okay, Sir”. The best I can get out of a lot of these guys is, “Mr Bryan”, which is always a laugh. Of course, you never force students to do anything they aren’t comfortable with. You tell them that in England it is normal for adult learners to address their teacher by their first name, but that whatever makes them happy will make me happy. Sage nod, “Yes, Sir”.

**Once you’ve read the punchline, the perceptive among you might think I’m lying. After all, he should surely have said, “Pasif. Iss-peas”, when he spoke slowly, but actually he kind of slurred so it really did sound like, “Pacifist …ehhhs… peas”. So that’s the third thing this tale tells us: BRYAN NEVER LIES! x-(

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://communityict.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/esol6.gif?w=640

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Poem: The Bluebells

Bluebell Wood

I wrote this in around 2004-2005. Walking around parkland, I rounded a corner near the Thames, and all-of-a-sudden I saw this field of bluebells. A transcendent feeling overtook me wholly. I was a firmly committed atheist by that point, had been for years.  None-the-less, the pantheistic language of this poem I felt appropriately captured the way I felt in that sublime moment when I felt like I was gifted this field of bluebells.

The Bluebells

I thank the lord my God I’m blessed
To see nature resplendent dressed,
All clad in richest purple hue,
The grass become a sea of blue;
And look what gently flutters by,
A wing that flashes golden eye,
As I amidst the long grass be,
Whilst golden sun shines down on me.
The heavens harken up above
To birds whose breasts resound with love,
A cool breeze makes the bluebells nod
To witness majesty of God.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.cotonmanor.co.uk/images/bluebells/bluebell_wood-coton_manor.jpg

Semantic Satiation @thesfep

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Editing a student’s MSc dissertation earlier. For some reason, this Briton wrote using entirely American spelling. I read and corrected the word “behavior” so many times that I genuinely became skeptical that it was an English word at all; with or without the “u”, it seemed like a French word I had only just now come across. Yet I was sure I could remember using it five minutes previously and knowing what it meant.

Semantic Satiation, a not uncommon affliction when I edit people’s work. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

P.S. I can edit your work for you. HIRE ME NOW. I NEED TO EAT.

© 2016 Bryan. A. J. Parry

featured image from https://forums.sfep.org.uk/templates/sfep/images/sfep/sfep_banner_960x182.png

Shadow-outline @FiatLingua #conlang

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A nonce word is one made up on the spot, for the occasion — a one-off, one-time-use word, as it were. Recently I wanted to say “silhouette”, but the word would not come to mind — so instead, shadow-outline plopped out.

I was immediately struck with how elegant and self-explanatory this nonce word is. Since then I’ve tried slipping it into conversation, but that’s been quite hard — how often do we talk about “silhouettes”, in any case? But when I have used it, it seems to have gone down well. That is, nobody has noticed I’ve smuggled in a made-up word — and I seem to have been clearly understood(!)

So there we are. Shadow-outline. A nonce word worth keeping around, perhaps? (if I do say so myself) And it also does away with remembering how to spell that Frenchy word S-I-L-H-O-U-E-T-T-E.

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

this post originally appeared on my other blog Wrixlings: https://wrixlings.wordpress.com/2015/11/24/shadow-outline/

featured image from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silhouette#/media/
File%3AMister_Bethany_and_Patience_Wright.jpg

Rationalisation Measures

plainenglishNOTpngThe company that runs my workplace is changing. The new company recently sent a document through to all staff. This is such delightful gibberish that I just had to share it.

Restructure
CENSORED* will be a clustered model which may result in the requirement for less staff to undertake certain jobs where rationalisation can be achieved by combining roles and responsibilities or due to the terms of the contract resulting in the requirement for less staff in certain areas.

Wow. I mean… wow. Words fail me. There’s so much wrong with this sentence — and yes, check it out again, that is one sentence! Some lowlights:

  • 46 + word long sentence
  • “…clustered model…”
  • “…where rationalisation can be achieved…”

And the document just goes on and on.

But to be fair to my (new) company, this type of language is standard. But standard or not, it just isn’t on. There was a genius quote in the Evening Standard** by Lucy Tobin recently. She’s slagging off email etiquette, particularly that of employers(!) I want to share one of the zingers she comes out with:

This is what happens when managers who learned “how to deal with people” in a two-day module at business school are released into the community.

!!! Brilliant! And I’m keeping a clipping of this article for future students (and bosses!): yes, I’m an English teacher.

So, back to where I began. Instead of the, frankly, offensive drivel that my new employers splurged into my inbox, how about this?

Restructure
We will group CENSORED*. We may lay some people off in some areas, if we can, because it is cheaper to get two people to do three people’s jobs.

My version isn’t the pithiest or the best you could come out with. But that’s the point: I just splunked that off, but it is still shorter and makes far more sense. It also doesn’t patronise people with nonsense euphemisms like “rationalisation” and “combining roles and responsibilities”.

So there we have it. In other news, here’s the Plain English Campaign’s website.

This article first appeared in slightly different form on 14th August 2014 on my language blog Wrixlings

Notes:
*Company and work location deleted.
**Tuesday 29 July 2014, p15 Comment.

© 2014 Bryan A. J. Parry