I am surrounded by English but what with all the different nationalities, accents, north and south divides, even in this institute of educational publishing of English-language learning, in Oxford, UK, Brittania, the place where English lives … well English is rather a broad term for the language that lives here.
My colleagues from Cumbria and Cheshire go off in the evening to ‘eat their tea’(!?). Maybe this doesn’t sound weird to you but for me – I should point out that I am South African – it is hilarious. Apparently my going to ‘have my dinner’ is posh. Pah!
While on the subject of tea, is it totally South African to let your tea draw? Brits seem to brew their tea and the Canadian downstairs steeps his. And when I say that I will make tea just now I mean ‘later/ in a little bit’. But for those around me, just now means NOW and where is it?
Then there are those for whom English is not the language they dream in (I read somewhere that this was a good marker for true language adoption). One of my favourite stories concerns a Spanish guy who lived in a digs in Oxford at a time when his English was still in its infancy. He was, apparently, not the kind of guy to let this get in the way of his gregariousness and turned to a dictionary whenever necessary. As a result, whenever anyone knocked on his door he would yell as he walked up to open it, ‘Between! Between!’ and would beam magnificently and gesture to the confused visitor: ‘Ok! Yes, between!’ The Spanish word entrar is translated as ‘come in’ and ‘enter’, but the formal Entre! translates as ‘between’. There is something poetic in this story and I am sometimes tempted to mumble Between, between! when a visitor crosses our threshold.
There are also the embarrassing stories: please don’t say fanny pack to me and your (Australian) thongs are not my thongs. I mean, I wouldn’t mind so much, it’s just the images that form in the mind …
The point of this rambling is to say that we have arrived on Facebook at last with a ‘What’s your English?’ fan page, a place to share those ‘You said what?!’ stories. So become a fan, everyone is doing it, it’s hundreds*!
Cheers, see ya, bye!
*South African word meaning ‘excellent’, ‘great’, ‘perfect’, ‘all good’.Email this Post