Thursday, 19 June 2014

Bitte, one million beers, please


I'm one of those Brits who only speak English, but I can get by in quite a few European countries when it comes to ordering beer.

I find that I can count up to a million in German, so I don't have any trouble getting a refill, even if I am in the deep South where elderly people do not speak English.

When I reached a certain age at school, us 'clever' ones in the A-stream started to be taught French. I don't know why they left it so late, because the younger you start, the easier it is.

In a different class for a different subject, I turned to whisper something to my desk-mate, and was spotted doing so by the teacher, who was having a bit of a bad day. He told me to stand outside the Head Mistress's office (yes, that's what they were called), and wait there indefinitely.

Eventually, she came out and asked me what I was doing there, so I told her. She demoted me to the B-stream on the spot, because she just didn't like me.

I returned to the class in tears, and the teacher asked me what happened, so I told him. He was horrified, and went straight to the Headmistress's office to try and undo the damage. She was having none of it and refused to reverse her decision.

I had to pack up all my things and go to the class with all the kids who were deemed not to be as bright as I had been ten minutes before, and begin B-stream lessons.

They did not bother to teach French to the B-stream kids, so I only ever had two lessons in it before I was punished for whispering in class.

This is why I never learned a foreign language - I just went to a really bad school.

I never learned to swim either - at the very beginning of our swimming lessons, those who could not swim were asked to raise their hands. Me, a kid with pebble-thick glasses and a fat boy put our hands up.

We were told to go to the shallow end and keep ourselves amused while the sports teacher tried to improve the swimmers' techniques for the forthcoming Gala. He wanted good results.

Like I said, I went to a very bad school.

24 comments:

  1. Oh Tom …… that's horrible …. I bet that, if you'd gone to a different school, you would have been the best French speaking swimmer England had ever seen !!!! Still, I'm sure that it hasn't ruined your life, n'est - ce pas ?!! …… there's always swimming and French lessons to be had, even for the more mature student !! ….. and, as long as you can order a beer in any country that you visit then, all's well with the world …. Å tout å l'heure !! XXXX

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    1. Just think - Tom could have swum the English Channel and, once on the other side, have ordered a drink in perfect French!

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    2. "Two Martinis, please."

      "Dry?"

      "NEIN! SWEI!"

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    3. When you see Brigitta again, ask her if she can teach you the zangy 'z' in 'zwei'. But "swei" sounds very charming. I don't know if anyone but a German will get the joke about the DRY Martini, but very funny!

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    4. Oops - I almost looked it up, but I just remembered the s sound of German zs.

      The original joke was about a German couple in a French bar who are ignored by the waiter every time they try to order drinks in German, so they decide to ask for them in French the next day.

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    5. Or is it the z sound of the German s, as in Solingen?

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  2. Hello Tom,
    During our time in Academe, one of us did sport the title of Headmistress (no prizes for guessing which one) since that, after all, is the correct title for a woman holding the highest office in a school. We always thought it gave rather an edge.....what kind of edge we were not entirely certain....but a certain frisson went round the room when introductions were made at conferences where other like-posted individuals were announced as Heads or Headteachers or, shudder, Principals.

    It does make us feel very inadequate, if not to say lazy, when amongst our young Hungarian friends they can number several other languages in their linguistic repertoire. Although we can get by on a day to day basis with the fiendishly difficult Hungarian, we are so often left to point to make our drinks orders fully understood. However, we have to say that wherever we have travelled we have never been left high and dry!

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    1. Miss (not Ms) Fox was her name, and she made a point of stabbing you painfully and abusively with her index finger when making other points. I can see her now. Words cannot express my bitterness toward the old baggage.

      Now let me guess... Jane?

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    2. Fox by name and Foxy by nature so it would appear.

      Well done! A merit to the boy with the chisel!

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  3. What a stupid woman! My very handsome brother-in-law learned to speak French at a very mature age -- fluently. He took private lessons in his home with a very attractive French woman who taught at the French academy in Minneapolis. I always thought my sister was VERY understanding -- especially when he got himself all spiffed up and smelling good on the evenings of the lessons! Now he speaks better than any of the rest of the family... And his comprehension is first class!

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    1. You know what my next question's going to be, don't you?

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  4. I would deem that to be a very, very, very bad school Tom.

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    1. A clue: It had the highest juvenile-deliquency record outside of London at the time.

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  5. Awful! No model for learning kindness, justice or French.

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    1. That Head Mistress. I mean. She sounds like a draggon.

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    2. Must be the weather today that I double up consonants (dragon) and vocals (wolf).

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    3. Carry on being generous with your consonants, Britta. I have a water-filter called 'Brita', and that is SO mean.

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  6. You write pretty well for such a shitty school.

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    1. I bet he had a private tutor

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    2. He may just be a genius. (If that does not make me his star pupil on this blog, then I don't know!)

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    3. I got two O-levels - one for Art and the other for English Language. Zero points for Maths. I could have scored minus zero if I had spelt my name wrong on the top of the paper.

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  7. It seems to me that, the world over, grade school physical education teachers are slightly sadistic, child- hating sociopaths. Apparently picking on the fat/clumsy/shy/unpopular kids is their favorite sport. I fell into all of the above categories so p.e. was an ordeal all the way up to graduation. I guess it happens the world over!

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