Odds and ends from the last ten days.
A student from Iraq who has been worried sick about her husband and daughter was recently hugely relieved when the two of them were finally able to join her in England. We were so pleased for her. Last week, just a week or two after Esther was given cause to rejoice, another student had to return to Iraq where his brother and another relative had been killed in a shooting.
The 20-year-old nephew of one of my colleagues left last Thursday morning for Australia, where he was going to spend his gap year. Unfortunately, he was on Malaysian Airways flight MH17. I didn't know before this that my colleague had a nephew, but nevertheless have shed tears for his family over the loss of this young man they loved so much.
I was marking a batch of essays this evening on the train home. Abdullah's had the usual unmotivated choices of auxiliary, subjectless verbs and hit-and-miss spilling. Speling. Spellinge. In just short of two months, he is going to start an MA in English Language Teaching, God bless and save us. I've been getting increasingly indignant about this issay / esay / essai as the evening has progressed. DAMMIT, Abdullah, when I started to teach myself Modern Greek in 1985, I pored over grammar books. I wrote letters to a friend in Greece, looking up vocabulary, checking the spelling of every word and getting the grammar as accurate as I was able. Each letter was as laborious to complete as if I were chiselling it onto a stone tablet. When I received a reply from Voula, I'd set about decoding the thing, and it was up-hill work. Voula is Greek but she completed her primary and secondary education in Venezuela, so her Greek spelling was as erratic as your own efforts in English. When you see a Greek word, you know how to pronounce it, but because there are several ways of representing the same vowel sound in writing, you don't necessarily know how to spell a word from hearing it. If I had to look up a word from one of Voula's missives and failed to find it, I'd have to try alternative spellings until I hit on a word that fitted the context. This lead to my being able to spot words derived from the same root, and these days I can correct native speakers' bloopers, but forbear. Mark that I had no ambition to teach anybody Greek when I put myself through this. So on Thursday, Abdullah μου, I am going to suggest that you get a bit more obsessive-compulsive about your Inglish, Eglish. Fuck it. You know what I mean.
Tutorial with Niki, newly arrived from Thessaloniki. She said she was worried about her spoken English. I almost said 'good, so you should be', but thought it best not to. I'm used to students thinking such deficiencies are more my problem than theirs. But Niki is sensible and realistic and she knows she has a problem. After discussing her options for improving her spoken language we turned to more immediate practicalities.
'Yeah' she mutters, rifling through a file, 'I need to activate my cunt.'
Well, you're barking up the wrong tree with me, love. Or maybe I misheard?
Still rifling, she clarifies: 'my cunt at HSBC...'