Friday, 21 July 2017

An Idiot's List of Reasons to Learn Lingua Franca

In case you don't know, lingua franca is a language of international communication. Now that you are enlightened on some Italian, let's head over to English which is indeed lingua franca of the modern world.

So, you should learn English because you will be able to:

- enjoy movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original and secretly feel superior because your English accent is much better than his;

- speak to waiters when you are on holiday abroad. If they don't reply in fluent English, complain about the poor service and don't leave a tip. Note: don't try it in Amsterdam, as they all speak English there and if you piss them off they will run you over on a bike;

- write comments online in English and express your views to a much broader audience on a wide variety of issues that bother you. These issues include but are not limited to stupid government, inefficient transport system, the weather, irresponsible dog owners, spoilt kids in restaurants and your in-laws;

- enrich your online shopping experience buying stuff you don't need from all over the world. And then (ahead of all your friends who don't speak English) master the newest system of getting rid of the stuff you don't need, the system so new, they haven't yet translated the book sharing this wisdom into your native language;

- rub your boss' nose in a grammar mistake in his email in English to the company’s foreign partners. Make sure you demand promotion on the grounds of being bilingual and having excellent attention to detail;

- write a letter to the Queen of England and ask her to adopt you as one of her loyal dogs. Don't forget to say ‘please’;

- fearlessly write graffiti on walls in two languages and once caught, explain with dignity that it’s language practice not vandalism;

- authentically shout ‘Taxi’ in New York like they do in the movies. Not that it will help you get one at a busy hour;

- understand all those pop songs in English, cringe and stop listening to this shite;

- watch millions of YouTube videos teaching you how to iron your shirts, socks and undergarments correctly;

- do your kids’ homework in English and let the poor children rest instead. After all kids should relax at home, not do stupid homework;

- tell if someone calls you names in English and reciprocate quickly and decisively;

- casually remark to the hospitality staff at the hotel you are staying at, that your negative review on Trip Advisor will be in English for the whole world to know that the croissants for breakfast were stale on 3 July and the water in the outdoor pool was uncomfortably cold for you after sunbathing.

If you focus on the British English you will inevitably adopt some of the ladies & gentlemen culture and

- offer your apologies on all sorts of possible occasions: if you burp, if someone else burps, if you behaved like an idiot, if someone else behaved like an idiot and you saw it, if you pushed someone accidentally, if someone pushed you accidentally and also just in case so that people around don't think you are being rude;

- once addressed by complete strangers, elaborate on weather predicaments of all sorts for half an hour in a row. And know a hundred and one expressions to describe rain;

- stay calm and carry on being polite even if someone punches you in your stiff upper lip.

If you think that the above reasons are not convincing enough, you should learn English because

- it's the language spoken by prince Harry. A bachelor. Yet.

And of course because

- this post is written in English. In case you didn't notice.

Happy learning!

PowerPoint fan? Check out our slides for this post.

Monday, 10 July 2017

My English Vocab Geared up for Top Gear

So it was weekend at last. No emails, no meetings, no calls for two days. Nada. Total bliss.

I was hugging a couch pillow and staring at the screen. Grand Tour was on. (No reason to waste Amazon Prime, you know).

I suddenly realised that I didn't get half of the lively banter the three guys were engaged in.

I blamed purchase orders at first. I raised so many that week that one could only be surprised my brain could still digest information in any other form but digits.

My second guess was the language. English is not my mother tongue after all. But no, I didn't struggle with their accents. The guys sound quite foreign friendly. No, it was something else…

Of course! The conversations didn't make much sense in those parts where they were talking about cars. There was an obvious gap in my English vocabulary. So, at once I decided I needed to fill it. I couldn't just not watch Hammond, right?

Richard (in the show): It had a better gearbox, better differential, better tyres, better rear suspension, and these better gold wheels. D'you know what it was? It was better.
Me (in front of the telly): *blank stare* *blank stare* *blank stare* *blank stare* Phew, at least I know the word ‘better’.

I was really glad that the vocBlocks 'Car Parts' came with pictures. After all, how am I supposed to tell a difference between a brake drum and a brake pad even translated into my mother tongue?

The easiest part was, of course, to learn the names of the exterior and interior car parts, just because it was clear what they were for and the names reflected it. Well, most of them at least. Like ‘brake light’ is the light that is on when you brake; ‘indicator light’ is the light that is on when you indicate that you are turning left or right; accelerator pedal is a pedal that makes the car accelerate once pressed on, while brake pedal is a pedal that makes the car slow down or brake.

Not sure though what the words ‘bonnet’ and ‘headlights’ reflect. Sounds like Little Red Riding Hood’s monster granny with round eyes that shine: ‘Granny, why do you have such big eyes shining from under your bonnet?’

And if you wonder why on earth I called the thingy that covers the engine ‘bonnet’ instead of ‘hood’, you should probably watch less of those Hollywood movies. Oops, should I say, films? Not sure why but British and Americans have different versions of quite a few car parts, both exterior and interior. British ‘boot’ and American ‘trunk’ being another example (see more in the car parts vocBlocks).

Mechanical bits and bobs were a bit more challenging, as I had never looked properly what was under the bonnet. To be honest, I have always been petrified that I won’t be able to stick the rod that holds the bonnet properly into position, the bloody thing will smack me hard on the head and the engine will be the last thing I’ll see in my life. Well, anyway that is my excuse for topping up the windscreen washing liquid only when it becomes VERY obvious that I really need to, that is when I can hardly see the road ahead, oink.

While I was at it, I also learnt at last how to properly pronounce car makes in English. These used to drive me crazy (no pun intended). Like most brand names they are not translated into different languages, so in my mother tongue they are the exact same words just pronounced differently. And this is the case when partially different is worse than completely different.

I used to find myself pause my English sentence before saying a name of a car make, my brain crawler searching for the English equivalent in my database AKA brain. As there was nothing, I would spit out an awkward sounding something. This monstrosity would usually start with English sounds influenced apparently by the previous words in my sentence in English, then morph into my mother tongue phonetic version in the middle and finish off with again English sounds to smoothly blend in with the following English words in the sentence. A blooming phonetic Frankenstein! And, by the way, a sentence breaker. Not fun.

So, to make Hyundai and other monsters normal, I listened to the audio and repeated the words while looking at the transcription to get it 100% right. There is a ‘revise’ mode for all the cards in vocBlocks for this.

Eventually, I was reborn into the English speaking automotive world, enlightened and free from any car related speech impediments. Ready to watch the reborn Top Gear Grand Tour with my favourite Richard.

Petrolheads out there, leave us a comment! Happy Learning!