Friday, January 20, 2012
English as a Foreign Language
Something you may not have known about me: I teach EFL. Yes, I do. And I've taught English as a Foreign Language for the last 16 years. How time flies when you're drilling the irregular verbs, I know.
I came to Germany on June 1, 1995, and for the first ten years--with the exception of old Alf reruns--I had no access to American TV. I didn't have CNN or MTV or SNL. I lost touch with Friends; actually to be honest I had never been in touch with Friends before I left the US, so it would be more accurate to say that I met new friends in, I think, 2007--long after my new friends had stopped being Friends. Until 2010 I had never seen Friends in English. In fact, I'd never seen Sex and the City in English. I'd never SEEN 30 Rock or any of the other sit-coms that came out after 1995. The result: I was losing what I think Americans would today call my Sit-com Swagger Lingo Thang (or probably not). I'm useless when it comes to talking the talk.
The second wake-up call was the phrase "It's all good." How can that be? I am a firm believer in tempering the good with the bad. Balance is so important. If something is utterly, wholly good, the universe is no longer right for me. When I made my first attempts at expressing this idea--around 2008 I think--I would say something like, "No worries, um, dude. It's like 98 percent good." This reaped only confused looks and patronizing smiles. Chris is sweet, but he's totally lost touch. Like 100 percent lost touch, dude.
There are so many more examples, but I'll end with just two more. A few years ago, I was talking to a then-friend on the telephone. I forget what we were talking about, but at one point I wanted to thank him for something--probably reading something I had written--so I said, "____, you rock my universe." His response was "The phrase is 'You rock my world.'" "Yes, I know," I said. "I just wanted to take it up a notch. Ha ha. You know, bring a bit of creativity to the world of catchphrases. Ha ha." Silence. Apparently, one is not to screw around with the sanctity of the catchphrase.
But now all is well. It's almost 100 percent good. I have British TV (still can't say "Simples!" and cluck like the commercial Meerkat, but I'm working on it), Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The list goes on and on.
So, what's your experience with the foreign language of English?
I must be off,
Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Tzpe (a Satire). He writes fiction, creative non-fiction and of course this here blog. His work has appeared in numerous places both online and in print. Read more about him HERE.