Friday, April 30, 2010


Hello. Could I speak to Cristina, please?
Thank you . . . (Three minutes of silence later) . . . Hello?
Could I speak to Cristina, please?
Thank you . . . (Three minutes of silent cursing later) . . . Hello?
Is Cristina there, please?
Yes. I say you.
Oh, sorry. Are you Cristina?
Oh hello, Cristina, this is Colin calling from—
Calling Calling?
No, my name's Colin, and I'm calling—
Your name's Calling?
Colin. C, O, L, I, N.
Sorry, sorry?
C, O, L, I, N. Colin.
¿Sí o él hay en? I no understand, sorry . . .

Thursday, April 29, 2010

You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)

OK, everyone, let’s check your homework.
Yes, Juan, homework. Did you do it?
Sorry, Juan, no points for honesty.
Never mind, Juan. OK, what page was it, Ana?
What page was the homework?
Hundred seventy-six.
The “hundred” was correct, Ana.
No was hundred seventy-six?
A hundred and sixty-seven, Ana.
I say.
One six seven, Ana. Not one seven six.
Yes. I say.
Well, it doesn’t matter. So, Ana, what did you put—
What page you say?
A hundred and sixty-seven, Pablo. One six seven.
No was hundred seventy-six?
No, Pablo. OK, sorry, Ana, what did you put for number one?
What I put number one?
Yes, what you put number one?
I no put nothing.
I no do homework.
Copied Juan, eh?
No, I think you say hundred sixty-seven.
I did say a hundred and sixty-seven, Ana.
So, why we are looking hundred seventy-six? . . .

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Me Myself I

Learning the English (with guest blogger Miguel Iglesias)

FOR ME no was dificult for to learning the english. Actualy is much people wich always is saying us we must to use the metod "comunicative" but you know what I am used to reply? See me! There are 30 years that I speak the english and have never no problem! You want that I say you how did I learn your lenguage? I explain all . . .

I did have a big luck whith my teacher english who his name was Señor Rivas, man very hard, then we very much frigthen . . .

Repetition! . . . Repetition! . . . Again! . . . Everybody!

And all we responding, Repetition! . . . Repetition! . . . Again! . . . Everybody!

Señor Rivas did insisted was necessary the drills for that we learn in corect manner. Is posible you don't believe but I never will forget how did we make the verb unregulars:

Everybody! RING? did begin Señor Rivas.
RING, RANG, RUNG! did sing we.
Garcia! SWIM?
Iglesias! BRING?

Was normal doing mistakes, but we too made many houseworks like consolidation. All nigth I readed the quotations more famous of Shakespare: Toupee or not toupee? Not you as well, Brutus? . . .

Whith 18 years my fathers presented me a book which name was 100 Esential English Idioms. Thinking in my preffereds: Take the cow by the horns! and By Jove! Is rainning bats and dogs.

Is pity my sons are not agree whith me. The past thuesday Ana said me if his master would have been the Señor Rivas she never had would learning the english . . . What exagerrated, no?

Ana work eventualy on elegant english academy very modern, then always happen the same:
Forget idioms, father. Lenguage is about communication!

After, she tries explaining me what is "information crap" but I interuppting:
Sorry, darling, you're talking rubbish again!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)

fluency (n.)
ability to waffle on about anything without sparing a thought for what you are actually saying

In an experiment conducted at the English Language Department in Glasburgh University, ten lucky "students" were treated to a free pint of bitter every 30 minutes, the aim being to study the relationship between fluency and accuracy over time while under the effects of alcohol.

The researchers summarised their findings thus:

From the above, they deduced:
  • Few students can hold more than 14 pints in one drinking session.
  • At first, the more students drink, the more fluent and accurate they become.
  • The critical pint comes after about three hours (i.e. six pints).
  • After this turning pint, fluency continues to increase at an impressive rate.
  • By the same token, however, accuracy shows a marked decline during this period.
  • It's inadvisable to go for the 15th pint - the pint of no-return -, as any fluency acquired will quickly dry up.
The researchers went on to establish an overall communication index - an expression of fluency multiplied by accuracy.

As you can see below, the optimum pint is around the three-hour mark:
From a student's pint of view, in any case, the message is clear: by all means drink, but don't expect people to understand you after the tenth pint.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

We Are Family

Try these out on your favourite class:

Today's Riddle

OK, listen carefully . . . John is June's husband and Jim's brother-in-law. Jane is Janet's niece. Jack is Jim's stepfather. And Jock's cousin's got a big one . . . Got that? So what relation is Jean to Joan?

Today's Dictation

Though we thought it was thoroughly thoughtless of Thomas and Timothy to throw the tough old trouts through the air, they threw them nonetheless.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I'm So Excited

I have a follower! No, no money exchanged hands. We’re talking about somebody who willingly signed up to read my rubbish. So, thank you, dear follower. Now I can go to my grave – if I’m lucky enough to get a grave, that is – safe in the knowledge that for just one brief microsecond in my life, somebody actually listened to me. Sorry, what was that, Colin?

I’ve had a tough week battling with blog gadgets, Facebook settings, useless “help files”, naughty students and nosey children . . .

What are you doing you, Dad?
Just checking my mail.
So why are you looking at photos?
Oh, you know.
What’s for dinner?
Are you hungry?
Can't you wait another three hours while I install this bloody site meter?

I'd better check the fridge.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sylvia's Mother

Hello. Is that Señora Avería?
Oh, hello, this is Colin from—
Colin! . . . Silvia’s told me all about you.
I bet she has.
So, tell me, how’s she doing? Behaving, I hope?
Well, actually, that’s exactly what I—
We’re thinking of sending her to England this summer. What do you think?
Excellent idea . . . You might even consider sending her this spring.
What about Ireland?
The further, the better, as far as I’m concerned. But that’s not what I wanted to—
Did she tell you we’ve got a wedding in Paris coming up?
Hundreds of times. In fact, I have quite a job shutting her—
She’s so excited! It means she’ll miss a class or two, but I’m sure you understand.
Yes, of course. Actually, I think the break will do us all the world of good.
Well, it’s been lovely chatting to you, Colin.
Likewise. There’s just one thing—
Look, I’m sorry, Colin, I’m in a bit of a rush right now. I'm going to be late for my aerobics session. Can I ring you back later? . . .

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got

Can I go to the toilet, please?
No, Juan.
Why didn’t you go before the class?
I forget.
I forgot.
I forgot. It’s past.
I don’t understand.
Don’t worry. Oh, go on, then, but be quick!
Thirty seconds, Juan.
Yes, thirty.
¿Trece segundos?
Not thirTEEN. THIRty. Treinta.
Is not enough.
Take it or leave it.
Just go, Juan. Now! We’ll count to thirty and if you’re not back by then, we’ll chop your goolies off, OK?
OK. (Juan runs out).
OK, everyone, let’s count together. One . . . two . . .

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Play The Game

Five things I learnt in yesterday’s tennis class . . .

1) Hitting the ball back is more difficult than it looks.

2) When serving, don’t hit the ball until it has left your hand.

3) Keep your eye on the ball that is moving, not the ones decorating the net.

4) Don’t share your water with anybody, especially if they’re younger than you.

5) Sprinting 20 yards to your left to use your forehand is always preferable to making a fool of yourself by risking your backhand.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Just Another Day

What time do you normally get up, Pedro?
Six past ten.
Six past ten?
Yes, six past ten.
That’s a very specific time.
So you usually skip breakfast, do you?
You skip breakfast. You don’t have breakfast.
Yes I have breakfast. Why not?
It’s rather late for breakfast, isn’t it? Six past ten.
No, I have time.
I see. And then you get into a time machine and come to English class?
I said, And then you get into a time machine and come to English class.
No, I drive.
I see.
Why do you say "time machine"?
Because it’s five past eight now and I couldn’t see how else you could get here if you get up at six past ten. What do YOU think, Juan?
If he has an alarm clock. Why not?
And a good time machine. Or did you mean, "ten past six", Pedro?
When you said, "six past ten", perhaps you meant, "ten past six"? It’s just a theory.
Ah yes, ten past six. ¡Cabrón!
OK, Juan, what time is it now?
Eight past six.
Is it? My watch must be fast. Eight past six?
Now it's eight past seven.
Eight past seven?! That last hour really flew, didn't it?
Sorry? . . .

Sunday, April 18, 2010

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet


Since graduating in French Studies over 25 years ago, I have been teaching English as a foreign language to the Basque community of Northern Spain, in addition to raising a model European family of four in three hopelessly incompatible languages during my spare time.

Having slogged through 25000 English classes, having slopped up 2500 Basque lunches - including 250 Spanish omelettes -, and having, quite miraculously, survived to tell the tale, now seems as good a time as any to share my thoughts with anybody who cares to join me.

Thank you.