I have just completed my full first week of teaching English to speakers of other languages since I got my CELTA qualification, and when I say a full week, boy, do I mean full! I was doing double shifts, teaching pre-intermediates in the mornings and afternoons, and upper-intermediates in the afternoons and evenings. It was a most enjoyable experience (I am currently doing it only as cover for when the regular or full-time teacher is away) but I am looking forward to getting away from the complications of the English language and returning to the complexities of the Romance languages instead. However, next Monday and Tuesday I have to guide another class – the intermediates – through the third conditional, phrasal verbs, augh and ough sounds and sentence stress, among other things, before I can return to the world of journalism, which I guess is my comfort zone.
Sydney is a popular destination for short-term language courses, particularly in the southern summer when pupils come to flee the northern winter. The mix of students was cosmopolitan: six Italians, three Colombians and Thais (including one tranny), two Brazilians, Vietnamese, Indonesians and Filipinos, plus one each from Spain, Portugal, China, Japan, South Korea, France, Poland, Lithuania, Nepal, India and Mexico, and the ages varied from 17 to 30-plus.
I mention the ages because it was noticeable how desperate the young people from the European countries, in particular, are to secure jobs and working visas in Australia. It is easy for us who are removed from the European economic crisis to forget how bad youth unemployment is in some countries over there. The student from Spain, for example, is 27, has a degree and two master’s degrees in industrial design, but cannot find work in his own country and can see only a bleak future. He has sold everything he owns back home in a bid to start a new life somehow in Australia. He is now working as a waiter in a restaurant for $10 an hour. (I didn’t tell him that the pay for language teachers is not much better than double that, but never mind!)
In one of our classes we had to discuss words that English has borrowed from other languages, and the reading material for that was based on the book, The Meaning of Tingo, by Adam Jaco de Boinod, who has collected words from all over the world that do not exist in English, but which English could well incorporate. My two favourites were:
- Bakkushan (Japanese): A woman who you think is pretty when viewed from behind, but is ugly when you see her from the front.
- Lampadato (Italian): An adjective to describe a person whose skin has been tanned too much by a sun lamp.