UNDERSTANING /ˈfəʊniːm/ ?

You may well have been wondering what’s happened to the blog.

On the other hand, you may well have not.

Well, the reason I’ve not blogged for ages is that my life has been almost totally consumed by learning to teach English as a foreign language — for those of you not in the know — this is called TEFL.

Yes, that’s right, folks. After all the moaning I’ve done about teaching and teachers in general, I’m almost set to join their ranks again.

Okay, so this isn’t policing snooty-nosed over-indulged lippy little brats, but it’s still teaching. And before my Derry amigos in particular brand me as an unprincipled hypocrite, let me say that I always enjoyed teaching — it was just that the clientele often didn’t match the modality and eclectic methodologies of my delivery.


TEFL Centre — you can check out any time you like — but you can never leave

The course is (supposedly) part-time and delivered by ‘TEFL in Spain’ in the centre of Malaga, and necessitates attending three sessions per week plus copious amounts of coursework.

Now, I used to think I was pretty good at English. After all, I’ve written a couple of books, worked as a journalist and picked up a few qualifications and awards over the years.

But it wasn’t until I began my course six weeks ago, that I realised how little I actually knew about grammar, syntax and the general obduracy and downright nastiness of the English language.

Plaza De La Misericordia —first three syllables say it all!

Now it may be obvious to you, dear reader that there are only two tenses in English — the past and the present — but this was news to me. What about the future for the love of feck? Nope… there is no future tense in English. Savvy?

And what’s the difference between a compound modifier and a compound adjective? When do you use a modal verb and how does an auxiliary verb accompanied by a verb with an – ‘ing’ ending signify use of the present continuous for talking about future arrangements.

But all of this is simple compared to the Klingon-like language we are required to embrace and expound upon to ‘aid’ pronunciation: Phonology. For those of you in the dark here phonology, /fəˈnɒlədʒi/noun, is the system of contrastive relationships among the speech sounds that constitute the fundamental components of a language.

Now this is pretty high-flying stuff (note use of a compound adjective [question to self: is a compound adjective in itself a compound-adjective?]) but I’ll tell you exactly why — in my view — it’s unimportant.

Imagine you’re introducing a new word to a class. Let’s take the word ‘charabanc’, for no other reason than I like it, and the OED doesn’t, having recently replaced it with the pointless and infantile word ‘selfie.’

So first you introduce the meaning: it’s an early form of bus, used typically for pleasure trips. Then, like a Harry Potter movie, you give it form: it’s a noun, of course and context… well that’s trickier, but if you’re imaginative, you’ll show your blank-faced flock (note another use of a compound adjective — I’ll stop doing this in a minute) a picture and create a contextual sentence around it.

Then, for reasons best known to linguists with more PhDs than I’ve had pints of Guinness, you tackle pronunciation by presenting your already be-frazzled (is this a word? If not, I’m having it) students with a transposition of a word they’ve never heard of, in… wait for it… drum role… phonetic scrip: /fəˈnɒlədʒi/. Bad-dah — Expelliarmus!

“Didn’t we have a louvelley time the day we went to T-E-F-L?

“Ahh… now I understand,” comes the collective murmur akin to that of a Jedi Sage, and you can move on to something important, like eliciting understanding of 101 illicit but fun things to do in a charabanc on a day trip to Bangor.

And that sums it up, I /’θɪŋk/. Get it?

So on the upside, I’ve met some tremendous people and had a lot of laughs, mainly away from the classroom and involving copious amounts of alcohol.

And would you believe, within our ranks we have a lion tamer, an acrobat and an actress?

And now to other news.

The group of dead-beats who have been populating (note usage of present perfect continuous) the west corner of my plaza every night for over a year drinking cheap cider and smoking weed, with have now graduated to the north-west corner.  They have a dog with the loudest bark in Andalusia, who shits with total impunity where so ever he likes.

This brings them to the spot directly below my apartment. The smell of marijuana is now overpowering so occasionally I repay the compliment by flicking olive stones over my balcony. I am also going to buy a catapult to ping an olive stone in Pedro el perro’s direction each time I catch him shitting in the courtyard.

It’s only taken them four months to work out that this end is considerably more sheltered than the other.

Well, with two weeks of TEFLing to go amigos, it’s nose back to the phonemic grindstone!

Care to share?
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