Monday, 15 February 2010

Utter TEFL

Boring absence. Apologies.

I'm sitting here - having just politely declined an invitation to go out - completely devoid of any analytical thought. My brain is utterly dead and has refused to engage all day. Most annoying and inconvenient. I can excuse it, but only just. It spent the weekend on a very intensive training course, and I know it was intensive because it required movement before 8 o'clock on a Saturday. AND on a Sunday. The whole thing lasted 20 hours and in theory qualifies me to teach English abroad. Or to immigrants/asylum seekers. It was long, arduous, fun, bewildering, maddening, humorous, enlightening and baffling.

The majority of the class were very cut-glass and boarding school, which surprised me greatly. And pleased me in equal measure, a sort of confirmation and reinforcement of the worthiness of being there, I suppose. Most of them were planning to volunteer selflessly in Africa and Asia, all in an effort to gain "life experience". All this sort of thing does look so very good in a CV, and it is a wonderful thing to tell at dinner parties. I rather meanly wonder how genuine people are with these things, especially as now post(ish)-recession, employers want that little something more in their prospective employees. It is after all, their market. I try to imagine myself doing the same, but the image will not fit. Somehow, I feel that being anywhere like the poorest parts of Africa will affect me terribly, and so will leave it all to the lovely friends I made. To whom I offer my support wholeheartedly, and thank ceaselessly that it isn't me.

One such lovely lass, who shall henceforth be known as Miss Aquitaine of Kent, was supremely fun (PS they were all females as well, brilliant!!). A fellow actor and nabber of jobs in post-production in Hollywood, we hit it off from the beginning. I think that anybody suddenly confronted with an hour's immersion in a completely foreign language will find their nearest fellow for support. The Slovenian was quite daunting, yet the purpose was glaringly obvious: How one can teach with no common language. And make it enjoyable, productive and successful. We were also united by our dislike of another would-be teacher. Oh she was painful. Insufferable. I find trusting people with bad skin difficult, it is horribly shallow of me and I usually overcome it, but I cannot help mentally applying cosmetics with a spatula. Anyway anyway, this character also had a hint of the insane about her. I adore eccentrics, as I suspect does Miss Kent, but Silence of the Lambs mentalism? We thought no. It was mainly the off-topic comments that grated. After a perfectly harmless opinion about a cafe in Fulham (Flahm as I now call it), she asks how I could sound "so posh when you're from Barnes when I've lived in Fulham all my life?" I think that one, after a pause, was very much a saved by a bell moment. It was then at morning tea that the most peculiar little piece of information was served up to us. We were discussing directors, and she made some comments (borderline slander) on James Cameron. All fine. Then proceeded to inform us all about decapitations to be found on YouTube. So very charming. In a sense, "Flahm" was perfectly nice, but oh to be stuck working with her, to be taught by her... I pity the Koreans.

The Sunday was, as anybody within earshot of Western media will attest, St Valentine's Day. Hurrah etc. Miss Aquitaine and I got to chatting on the whole thing, and we concluded that we ought to have an anti-Valentine's lunch. I'm not remotely bitter, and not really single, but 'tis more fun to join in and get the actor's juices flowing. We decided we must make a good effort of it, and eschew anything heart-shaped. Silly to wander into Fortnum & Mason for lunch then! But oh it was fab. We wandered around making up silliness about suffrage, submission, loss of identity, all very GCSE English essay. The only thing to do when "down" is to elevate oneself back up again. One must never admit defeat nor lose face. This is how Britain has carried on for the last century. The loss of an empire should wipe away all the smugness, the superiority. Gladly, the opposite is true and the subconscious belief in self and country and status quo keeps the mill turning.

We had our lunch of saumon en croute, roasted English vegetables and chocolate and honeycomb mousse, washed down with an elderflower drink and planned our lesson. And it was fun. The chance to meet new people, the opportunity to throw oneself in at the deep-end should not be turned down. It should be entirely embraced, because whosoever could say what will happen next?


  1. Ah dear posh-speaker. Rather enjoyed reading that old chap.
    love fifi louise.

  2. I believe you would be a super teacher--not up tight.

    What in the world are "English vegetables?"

  3. I have been a bit absent too- moving and having a case of the Februarys I think. Weekend sounds very fun though- it's wrong and all but some people just ask to be mocked. i was training for a summer job showing people round a national trust type building at Uni and one of the other girls pronounced facade fack ade and was monstrously full of herself and I'm afraid she was fackade girl for the whole summer- it might be her learning to teach with you actually.

    Lunch at Fortnum's sounds glorious- I walked past before Christmas actually and saw everyone dressed up in proper ties and jackets enjoying lunch and thought how lovely that all that still exists- long live Bunburying and revelry in St James- even if it's with elderflower

  4. - Fifi, bless you xx.

    - Mim, thank you for the compliment. Teaching is rather in my family, so we shall see. And I think English vegetables are mainly root vegetables like parsnips and beetroot and carrot. Hardly glamorous.

    - Rose, I wish she had said facade, I would have loved it to be her. She is hard to age because of the skin issues, but I know she did a law degree. She promptly belittled it by telling us that Turkish girls who didn't speak English managed to pass.

    Please do Fortnum's! The welsh rarebit is lovely, and I'm always up for Bunburying. X

  5. Lewis, I adore your honesty that you find it difficult trusting people with bad skin. It's hard when aesthetics are challenging... I also once did the TOEFL, but that must have been a different standard because I can surely not teach others in English. Instead it just allowed me to study English/American studies and yes, I think I needed it for going to the US. Weird when you think that the average American only knows 200 words...

  6. Oh Sabine I do feel so guilty for having such awful thoughts. It's so very superficial, but I make sure to not inform my judgements on bad skin alone!!
    I think TOEFL is the proving your proficiency test, TEFL is simply teaching English as a foreign language.
    There are some very intelligent Americans, as with all nations there are intelligent people, but sadly I think the more ignorant Americans have been the most visible the last few years!