Why Can’t the English [Learn to Speak?]

Hey Mates!

I’m absolutely gutted that the weather’s been so crap. It bloody rains so much all of the time that when I must go outside, I have trained myself to always have my brolly in my handbag. However, some days I just can’t be bothered, and I have a lie-in instead. Lately, I have been calling my friends’ mobiles to see if they want to come ’round mine for tea, fizzy drinks, and snacks at the weekend. Sometimes, we eat too many sweets, biscuits, lollies, and crisps and sometimes get a little bit pissed! As a result, we always have to go get chips to help our weak stomachs, so our bin bags are usually completely full of rubbish. I always have to remember to take them out before the rubbish collectors arrive with the bin lorry.

Because lathered are always so many people in the flat, the floors and cutlery are absolutely disgusting! People never take off their trainers, and my flatmates and I feel like we are always hoovering and doing the washing up! At least I am finally learning to use my brand new cooker to make food at home (even if some of my food comes directly from a tin! At least I have some aluminium to wrap it in and save for later!) On a side note, I really miss eating jelly and I made some for Thanksgiving! Finally, anyone who knows me knows that I am notorious for spilling things on my trousers and jumpers, so I feel like I am always doing the washing as well (besides, I only have so many pairs of pants).

France loves sending everything by post, so I am always checking my letter box- I get so much junk that sometimes it feels like everyone in this country knows my post code! Unfortunately the post office and other French shops are always so crowded- there are not enough pushcarts at the supermarket, and I’m constantly queuing in such long queues, even when I’m just going to pick up a prescription at the chemist’s! And there aren’t even any public toilets for us to use! But, when I’m not running errands in the city, it feels like I always have a phone call to make. Unfortunately, in France it seems like the lines are always engaged!

I really hate driving in France, even though my friend and I are going to hire a car in Normandy. The car bonnets are hard to open, the boots are too small, and the petrol is so expensive! The lorries drive too fast on the motorways, they don’t stop for pedestrians who walk on the pavement near the junctions and zebra crossings (why even bother with the traffic lights?), and the number plates make absolutely no sense at all! The windscreen wipers and the tyres are not efficient enough when you’re driving in poor conditions! Finally, there are never any free spaces in the car park! So, as a result I usually take the underground or the tram. But, what really irks me is when mummies and daddies bring their babies’ prams on public transportation, especially when the baby really needs its nappy changed- just give them their dummy already! It’s loud, crowded, and not enjoyable for anyone!

Overall, I’m looking forward to going on holiday next week. Christmas is one of my favourite times of year; I really just love admiring all of the colours and watching new films at the cinema. In the meantime, I am doing sport, brushing up on maths, and tutoring English to earn some extra quid. Oh, and I just bought some sweet new rubbers for marking my uni students’ work!  Sweet As!

Overall, I’m really happy here. Everyone is just so lovely. Not to mention there’s a man I kind of fancy— he’s so fit and also a little bit camp (but not a twat!) I could do with a bit of snogging or  once in awhile… (Just kidding!).

(PS- the letter Z is pronounced like “Zed!”)

I must say, one of the favorite aspects of my job as an English teacher in France is working alongside English speakers from other countries (this year I specifically work with English, Scottish, Canadian, American, and Kiwi nationalities). During my time in the north as well as the south of France, my English vocabulary has expanded almost as rapidly as my French vocabulary, thanks to befriending other English speakers as well as working alongside colleagues who either learned British English or are British themselves.

Currently, I work directly alongside a British colleague, and we always have to collaborate before teaching a new lesson in order to share vocabulary or pronunciation. French people learn British English (of course), but the TOEIC test the first year students at the university take is an American exam, so all of the vocabulary is American! For example, sometimes we disagree on various test questions, because our vocabulary or grammar structures vary slightly. A few weeks ago, my colleague and I team-taught a lesson, and we took turns pronouncing different words. The most profound I found to be the word “walk.” According to British speakers, I pronounce it like “wok.”

But this is what I just love about language learning– the possibilities for expressing oneself is endless, and the words developed can sometimes directly (or indirectly) reflect back onto the country’s history and culture, and current events. Even more so, accents change even more profoundly as you move from region to region within a country, exploiting the sub-cultures and ways of life of specific groups of people. For example, I know my Midwestern twang comes out when I go get my bag (pronounced like beg), drink a SODA, putting jimmies on my ice cream, or ask where the “bubbler” is (a drinking fountain for anyone who doesn’t come from Wisconsin).


Dana Xx

13 thoughts on “Why Can’t the English [Learn to Speak?]

  1. I really like this post! Could I use what you’ve written to make an exercise for my students on the differences between American and British English? I’d put your URL on the worksheet.

    Like you, I think I’ve sort of given up and started speaking more Britishly. I even tried putting on a British accent once to see if it would help the students understand me. It did.

  2. I’ve always said I can’t be bothered my whole life and I also use roundabout instead of rotary (seriously what the hell is a rotary?). The only thing that really bothers me about BE is the use of the word fag and adding s to the end of math. I suppose it makes sense because the full word is mathematics but it just looks wrong. I get really OCD about it.

  3. This is fantastic! I really enjoyed reading it. I feel like a few of the British words have slipped into my vocabulary while being here as well.

    P.S. you mean pop, right? 😉

    1. haha do you mean Pop Music 😉

      I have now habitually started using “Come ’round mine” and “Can’t be bothered” and “hoover” and “washing.” I guess that’s the price you pay to live and work with Brits 😉

      but seriously… pram? lorry? never. 🙂

  4. There are some British words that I use more often than their American equivalents now. It comes from several years where I had very limited contact with Americans. But there are some British words that I could never see myself using…

    1. I have found that “I just can’t be bothered” and “come ’round mine” have been engrained. I’ve also started to say “hoover,” “washing,” and a few others (that’s what happens when you live with Brits.) But yeah, I dont think I could ever say, “Lorry,” or “boot,” or “bonnet,” for example

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