In other, more homely words, he could also be a tad disappointed.
Few are they who walk the nomadic fields and trip the linguistic fantastic without stopping to catch breath and straighten their dipthongs. We cannot expect everybody, even in these enlightened times, to speak a rich variety of languages and be comfortable listening to conversations in Hungarian and Dutch, Greek and Danish. It is a big wide world but we have brains which have been frazzled by too much cinema vérité and Stella Artois, too many late nights pounding the computer console with our stubby fingers. The coup de grace, as ever, came from that tank of Duvel that we drank the other week. The brain has not been the same since. Bloody Belgians, present Kompany excepted, naturally enough.
Somewhere within this morasse of cliché and inuendo, however, lies a salient point. You, my single loyal reader, probably clicked on the link that transported you here so painlessly because you fully expected to be reading something (some tripe) in English. And this what you got. Already, some two hundred words in, you have had to feast your eyes on at least eleven words or phrases that are not in fact English at all.
But what if your name were Carlos Alberto Martinez? You would of course already have mentally turned off and would be busy excavating your nose.
But, what if.
Would it be possible to assume that, when he was informed by his hard working entourage that the next leg of the magical mystery tour that is his career would see him heading for "West Ham United" all those years ago, that the very basic thoughts that he so specialises in might have featured one of the following rhetorical questions:
- West Ham's in Inglaterra, isn't it? London, if I'm not mistaken. East End.
- The people in England speak English, don't they?
- You have to speak English in England, don't you, if you want to survive, prosper even?
- English is a popular means of communication between all sorts of people in all sorts of places around the globe. Isn't it?
I am living proof of this fact. For my sins, I have worked at various times in Holland, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium and Portugal. At no time did it cross my mind that I could simply get away with English in any of those places. I spent nearly ten years in Holland. This is a country that possesses a language which, when spoken with vivacity and enthusiasm, say, in a crowded meeting of management consultants or (my own preferred territory) a stuffed bar at half-past one in the morning, sounds a little like somebody repeatedly standing on an adult squirrel. I persevered with this Language of the Throat and, by the end of my time there, was working exclusively in the native tongue, much to the probable mirth of my company's clients. I, a class A dunce, wastrel and purveyor of linguistic shipwrecks, had made it and made it in Dutch of all languages on this sceptered planet.
THE INDEFATIGABLY OBSCENE SEPP BLATTER
If the mantra in Holland (a country where even the cows moo decent English) is "When in Holland, speak the language the locals do", what can we say about dear old Blighty? I have been addressed in English by supermarket check-out girls in Amsterdam, by shop assistants in Vienna and by floor cleaners in Porto (yes, I get around, yes I talk to absolutely anybody), but England is different. this is because of English. Not Polish, not Turkish. English.Coming to England as a foreigner is different. English, the global language of media, sport, politics and more or less anything else you care to think of, is everywhere. You cannot go to the cinema without it, nor enter a congress. In short you cannot behave like we have all behaved when abroad and wander casually into a place and proceed, without even asking if it is possible, to have a conversation with a complete stranger at speed in your own language.
All of which makes Carlos Tevez ever so slightly odd.
THE GLAZED EYES OF JARI LITMANEN
The modern day footballer has to pick up on an infinite array of tactical suggestions, dossiers on opponents, travel itineries and catwalk invitations. He has to sit at press conferences looking meaningful, answer questions about this that and the tedious other, all the time playing the straight bat, keeping the poker face and following the company line. "We do not test on small fluffy animals." "We do not commit affluent chemical liquids to the North Sea." "We were not in the book depository when the top of his head came off.". Etcetera. To do all of this without falling over takes a working knowledge of the local lingo. How could it be otherwise? I once had the undiluted pleasure of working with Ajax and Benfica, two European football institutions of the highest repute. Dish of the Day? Organising language training for foreign players. Now Dutch and Portuguese are not the easiest of things to get your teeth into. I was there when poor Jari Litmanen's eyes glazed over. I was there when Marcio Santos suddenly needed to go home for a pee (any excuse) and I was most certainly there when Michel Preud'homme tried to distract me from my onerous task by inviting me for a round of golf in Cascais instead. Almost to a man, the players thought it was a big joke. A bloke in a suit trying to sign them up for sessions in front of a whiteboard making fools of themselves. I have seen it many times before. This is like going naked. Suddenly, the senior partner of a huge multinational is laid bare as a mumbling imbecile in English. Top footballers do not like this much.John terry looks tough and confident in "Cockney", but ask him to sit down and order a fruit loop in French and he will look like one of the biggest Jessies since Jessie James.
The counter argument is: where does one start with a language like English, with its silent b's and it's intrusive th's? Put yourself, for a moment, in Carlos's comfortable ultra expensive silk carpet slippers and try to form a Carlos-inspired opinion on the following....English is the language that brings you:
- six different ways to pronounce "ough" (thought, tough, through, cough, bough, although)
- verbs that change so radically they might be from Venus (seek > sought)
- rules that have more exceptions than examples
- pronunciation from the bowels of hell itself (innovate > innovative; famous > infamous. Try asking a foreigner to say "Neville Southall" and watch as they bite their tongues and keel over)
- structure as user-friendly as the Mountain Path to Mordor: "I wanted to see what it was like" "I wanted to see how it was"
- 100s of words that aren't remotely English anyway: creche, kindergarten, shampoo, breeze, laissez-faire, brio, bankrupt, gateau, ketchup.....
Some of our most famous faces mangle the mother tongue until it sounds like a pig in a cement mixer. After a lot of grunting and bleating, all you are left with is bones and fur. How did Mirandinha, the little Brazilian arriving slightly ahead of his time in 80s Newcastle, deal with Gazza's verbal gymnastics, let alone his rubber breasted pranks? The poor man ran around with gloves on looking deeply puzzled for 3 months and promptly made his excuses and left. Deep fired Mars bars, barely dressed lasses ideologically wide at the hips and Barry Venison's highlights can all be tolerated, even enjoyed for what they are, but a gibbering maniac spouting Swahili through a loud-haler?
SWALES, THE LINGUISTIC JUGGERNAUT
|Swales + Elton get started|
And don't ever get me started on the brilliantly inept Dragoslav Stepanovic, another of Big Mal's experiments: A Serb made captain of City in 1979 despite not speaking more than four words ("Come on you Blues" to be precise) of English...
I digress. Carlos is waiting for us by the eternal whiteboard, marker pen and dictaphone at the ready. So, look at this:
Characteristics of Good Language Learners -Good language learners are born and not made’ - consider the “Good language learner” model proposed by Naiman, Frohlich, Todesco and Stern (1978) as part of the good language learner study. The model consists of five boxes which represent classes of variables in language learning. These are teaching, the learner and the context (the three independent causative variables.) and the learning and the outcome boxes (the caused variables).
Basically, there are four basic strategies which good language learners employ:
• active planning strategy
• ‘academic’ learning strategy
• social learning strategy
• affective learning strategy (Stern, 1983)
THE NIHILISTIC ARROGANCE OF THE LONG DISTANCE LANGUAGE LEARNER
|Laissez ton cheval et allez boire ton lait|