As most of you know, I work at a small residential school specialising in Business English. We charge a lot of money and we get very motivated, serious-minded, but wonderful students. I have met some extraordinary people, who have done amazing things and have told me brilliant stories and afforded me much mirth, happiness, incredulity and surprise. I spoke earlier this week about losing my voice and what that meant to me on various levels, but mostly how it made me understand and empathise with my students who essentially need a new voice, or a different voice when they speak English. As students acquire more of the language and feel more confident in messing about with it and trying new things, so they develop their own “voice”. But at what point does this new voice lead them down treacherous paths? Oh dear me, this week I have headlined at two horrendous foul-ups and have been uncharacteristically baffled as to how to proceed. Both have happened at breakfast.
On Monday morning as the new students sat silently at table in the breakfast room, looking sheepish and unsure, a student from last week said, “I was at Thai restaurant on Saturday.” Glad of the conversation opener, I leapt into the breach and asked him where and what it was like and whether he had enjoyed it. “Not so muts,” he opined. Gallantly, I asked why. Here’s what followed:
“Zere vas a woomin at bar sowing off. See vas very loud and tall. I sink see vas lady boy.”
I rearrange myself and my face.
“Really? How interesting.”
“Yes – see vas vearing very tight cloze and had muts make-up on. But see had a deep voice and jad very big muscles.”
New students started to be interested.
“Vat ees lady boy?”
“Candy can tell you.”
Oddly enough, the same person, a few days later, was regaling us all with his experiences in marketing and told us of the biggest marketing fiasco he had ever been a part of. Apparently Finland had decided to export a beer to the UK. All went fabulously well until it dawned on whoever was awake or bright enough to see the potential problem, that this would not work in the UK. Why? The translation of the beer’s name was “Pink Pussy”. Now that in itself is difficult enough to deal with as a seriously inappropriate remark; but, at breakfast? Any other time I could have coped. But the students, by now less inhibited than they were earlier in the week, asked why that was a problem. Once again, the same student said, “Candy can tell you.”
I need a holiday…….