Tuesday, June 01, 2004

It’s time for an update on M., the goldfish I am trying to teach to fly.

Regular readers may remember me writing about M., a student of mine, a couple of months ago. Although he’s not ready to do the exam he wants to his mother insisted that he did; he needs to pass so that he can, finally, graduate from University. He’s 28.

I like M. He’s a jolly chap, and, although he is no linguist, he works hard and enthusiastically. One-to-one lessons are, for me a least, draining and invariably dull. (Groups are where the fun is) However M. brings enthusiasm and energy enough for us both, and whatever happens this Friday in the exam he has my respect for the attitude he has taken to what he must realise is massive uphill struggle.

And he provides me with endless anecdotes. I’ve told him many times that “Ciao!” has two translations in English, and what they are, but he still sometimes says “Goodbye” as he enters the classroom and “Hello” as he leaves. And having banged into him that the correct response to “How are you?” is “I’m fine” I then found he was over-conditioned: last week the first thing I said to him was “Isn’t the weather great?”; “I’m fine, thankyou” came the reply.

I worry that recounting some of these cock-ups here maybe unprofessional. But some are too good. I will recount just one.

In the obligatory letter-to-a-friend that crops up in all language exams M. was writing about a trip to London: “We went on the rouge route autobus”.

“Rouge?” I asked, wondering if it was a spelling mistake, or if I was reading his handwriting wrong.

“Er, yes”, said M.

I paused. “What do you mean?”

“Ah, because... they have... rouge route in Parigi”.

“Parigi M.?!! Paris!?! Paris is in France. You’re writing about a trip to London.” He laughed; I hope – although it’s often hard to tell – he was laughing, like me, at the absurdity of it all. Mind you, it’s not like Italians to laugh at themselves.

“Ah... er... no... not rouge”. He started to scribble it out.

“What’s rouge in Italian M.?”


“And what’s rosso in English?”



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