Do you speak English?

“And there was never a better time to delve for pleasure in language than the sixteenth century, when novelty blew through English like a spring breeze. Some twelve thousand words, a phenomenal number, entered the language between 1500 and 1650, about half of them still in use today, and old words were employed in ways not tried before. Nouns became verbs and adverbs; adverbs became adjectives. Expressions that could not have grammatically existed before – such as ‘breathing one’s last’ and ‘backing a horse’, both coined by Shakespeare – were suddenly popping up everywhere.”

Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson

French language learning
My French reading homework this week.

Dear …
My face is politeness for You.

It’s been a hard day’s night. As to me. I guess for You too.
I must be in a harry – I”m under thumb of my wife.
I carefully exam Your docs and let You know some later. Mayby today.

I wish You unforgettable everning.
Mr …

This is a real email from a real client this week, though I suspect the real author was Google Translate.

I sympathise.

I climbed back into the French learning saddle a few weeks ago and I imagine that my spoken French sounds a bit like this email. I am prodigiously grateful to my French professeur and to my dear Hubby for not laughing at me. It’s so tempting to give up when it takes such brain power to conjure up the passé composé or to remember that prendre is irregular and to pronounce é and è correctly.

So, not to laugh at, but more (as my Mamma often assured us) to laugh with my fellow language learners, here are some crackers I’ve heard from my own international friends and acquaintances over the years. Can you figure out what they meant to say?

Some people collect stamps, I collect quotes 😉

Malapropisms, mis-quoted phrases and idioms-gone-awray:

  • “When Paula* and I were dating the children were always on the picture,” Newlywed* explains.
  • “Johnny* is doing good. He came out of a closet,” said Concerned*.
  • “I think those emails I sent will yield some fruit juice,” beams Hardworker*.
  • “Problem is, these money issues are hanging on my neck!”
  • “Do you want English Breakfast or doggy tea?” asked Helpful* offering a round.
  • “The heavylift crane is fixated on the pedestal so very stable,” assures Salesman*.
  • “I want to eat you,” He said, suggesting a date night.
  • “That project is in the pipe!”
  • “It just adds salt to the injury,” explained Worried*.

Today, if you’re learning a new language, go easy on yourself. If you persist you won’t always sound like an imbecile (that’s what I tell myself).

And if you’re talking to / listening to someone for whom English is not their first language, be kind, they’re trying to make sense of a language in which a ‘fat chance’ and a ‘slim chance’ is the same thing.

In other news, the Easter long weekend is looming and we are off to Devon to join family from Hull and London. It’s predicted to be the rainiest Easter weekend in recorded history so our fishing trip should prove fun.

Also … pics of our house build in South Africa so far:

P.s. A linguistics joke from my university days: Linguistics lecturer: “In English,” he says, “a double negative forms a positive. In Russian, a double negative remains a negative. In no language, however, does a double positive form a negative.” A voice pipes up from the back, “Yeah, right!”
P.p.s. * indicates a name has been changed.
P.p.p.s. I made up the bit about the rainiest weekend in recorded history, but based on my weather app, it might as well be!
P.p.p.p.s. Below is a funny BBC clip called Do You Speak English?

3 thoughts on “Do you speak English?

  1. What a luverly account.How are the French lessons getting on Madame.?I hope you are pleased with the new build progress.The view looks stunning.After all the hardwork and planning everything is coming to fruition.I am so pleased for you both.Enjoy your Easter break with family.Do not worry about the weather…When the going gets tough the tough get going…. X


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