A colleague reported to me a conversation she had had with Talal, one of the Algerian airmen, whose progress in English has been rather like mine was in maths: negligible.
‘How’s the weather in your town in Algeria?’ she asked him.
‘Same, Algeria. Algeria, same. Tomorrow snow.’
Well, it was a comprehensible reply in the context, as he was able to nod towards the window and the bitter cold day outside. Not what you might hope for after a five month stay with us, though: no subject pronouns, no auxiliary verbs, none of the grammatical nuts and bolts that allow language to range beyond the immediate. Oh, and by ‘tomorrow’, he meant ‘yesterday’.
‘Is he a winch-man?’ I asked, because my only all-winch class two years ago had been up-hill work and I suppose I'm prejudiced.
‘No – a radar operator. You know, absolutely pivotal between the pilot and the winch.’
Shit. If on a Search and Rescue mission Talal transposes, say, 125 degrees and 152 degrees, the result could be messy indeed. I suggested the best we can do at this late stage is teach him to say ‘Oops, sorry…’ He may only need it the once.