The right vocabulary can get you anywhere. Choose your words carefully and you might find yourself writing brilliant poetry, lyrics, essays for your masters degree, moving speeches and thoughtful cards. Choose your words carefully and you could be expressing ideas you were never able to fully express before, or perhaps you will succeed in changing even the most stubborn of minds. Let us explore how best to argue and persuade...
A series of articles on the English language.
We can be frightened for all kinds of reasons; some are logical, such as a fear of snakes which might bite you, but people can be frightened of all sorts of things, many of them harmless: clowns, butterflies, clocks, moonlight. We call them phobias, and there are long lists of these phobias, most of them seemingly totally irrational. However, not all fears can be classed as phobias, and we have lots of different words to describe fear, and even ways to describe the people who experience these feelings.
Thanks to the wonders of Facebook I have recently linked up with a friend I used to play with when I was about eight years old. The phrase ‘scaredy cat’ was often used as a playground jibe when I was very young. Bigger and older children might dare someone to do something - such as climbing up on the bicycle shed and then jumping off into the coke pile – a really foolish thing to do as you would probably end up covered with coal dust and many scratches, and at worst you could break a leg. So the sensible thing to do was to take no notice of such jibes, but not everyone felt able to stand up to the teasing.
Picture this: It's 6 pm, approaching the end of a long and tiring day at work. You're hungry, stressed out and ready to get into your comfortable clothes, ready to chill out.
As you're straining to concentrate on that last hour of work you suddenly remember the English class you booked for your child this evening.
The thought of rushing back, being stuck in a traffic jam and arriving late for their class (again) fills you with dread. Not to mention the cries of protests as your child refuses to get ready and repeatedly tells you that they don’t want to go to the class.
You snap out of the daydream and begin to think about the very real amount of money you are paying for your child’s English classes. And for what? Rushing around with an unhappy child quite obviously not in the right mindset to learn?
Surely there must be an easier way for your children to learn English?
Here’s the good news – there is a solution to your problem!
It’s a dream for many people to spend a summer break in an exotic foreign country, hanging out with the locals, making a friend or two (or even a summer romance!) and returning home refreshed and fluent in a foreign language.
But can someone just pick up a language simply by being in the country in which it is spoken? Many companies that organize immersion exchange programmes, summer camps or English language courses in an English-speaking country would have you believe that it’s so much easier than with traditional English academies or online English classes. Even the word immersion itself sounds so, well, easy. Just immerse yourself in the language, like standing under a waterfall, and everything will just seep into your skin.
I’m afraid to say that in my case this just did not happen. Before I spent four months travelling around South America, everyone had told me I would ‘pick up’ Spanish as easy as ‘uno, dos, tres’. I took an Ipod full of Spanish songs, somehow hoping that the language flowing through my ears would end up stuck in my brain. But after a month or two, I couldn’t do much more than order a beer and have a basic conversation. So why was I ‘failing’?
Sir Winston Churchill once observed that Americans and the British are ‘a common people divided by a common language’ …
Never was that as true as when describing the Cockneys.
You’ve probably heard their accent, made famous in everything from movies based on Dickens and George Bernard Shaw novels, to computer-generated gekkos telling real gekkos how to go forth and sell car insurance. Linguists say that the Australian accent has its roots in Cockney culture, as they comprised a large percentage of prisoners, shipped there by the British when they viewed the Land Down Under as an ideal penal colony. Cockneys are the crafty characters from east London who admire those among their lot who can make a living simply by ‘ducking and diving, mate,’ which is their version of wheeling and dealing on a working-class level.