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!

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