1. Taught all day at a big pharma company yesterday, the hardest part was getting there (2.5 hours); the actual lesson was, as is the norm now, just fairly structured conversation. For this i was paid 250 €. Highlight was the moment when a buxom Bavarian student showed me her ID card – her official work photo was a picture of Marilyn Monroe; when i asked how she would explain this away, if anyone noticed, she told me this was how she looked before joining the company, and daily stress had worn her down. This struck me as an excellent ruse and if i ever get a photo ID i mean to put this into action.
2. Teaching for independent schools is very very different to teaching at the Blitz (my employer in Ultima Thule) – i’m more or less free to do what i want now, and there’s very little grammar. As a result, i need no real teaching skills; it’s rather a matter of being a good schmoozer, interested in other people, entertaining, humorous. i partly miss the real grunt work of teaching grammar to low levels, though having said that i can certainly live with being paid 20 to 25 € a unit to do nothing more than say “tell me about your job” and “how long have you been doing that?” and so on.
At times i feel slightly guilty for, e.g. being paid 60 € to spend a couple of hours chatting about Lederhosen and Volksmusik (as i did this morning), but then i reflect that, since language is central to the mind, and to human relations, an entertaining, thoughtful conversation – about Lederhosen, say – will go deeper than schoolmasterish rigmarole and grammatic trivia, and so hopefully my students do learn some English. In any case, i find them all curiously unwilling to learn grammar, and this tendency is the stronger the better their English – and since most of my students are already pretty good, there’s little to do but chat.
3. On Monday i taught a HR boss at a large German company. i got the impression she had been very stern and Germanic with the school director, who warned me she was an important client etc. etc. i turned up expecting to meet a gorgon but instead met a lovely 42-year-old MILF, elegantly dressed, with an almost girlish manner. However, i realised she projects a “power woman” persona in business dealings, from which i am excepted. We had 3 hours alone together; normally, i suggest a 5-minute break after an hour but it was such fun talking to her we went a good 2 hours without a break. She exclaimed, with some surprise, that it had felt like 20 minutes, not 2 hours. This time distortion is a good indicator. A couple of times in UT, i took over long crash courses from lesser, merely mortal teachers; the students noted, bemused, that time seemed to pass twice as quickly in my lessons. Actually, this was just because i never try to make the students talk about boring subjects, and am exceedingly cunning in finding a suitable vehicle for whatever grammar is on the menu.
i have the HR MILF again on Friday. Alas, the school will have to find someone else for her last 3 lessons, as i had agreed to work elsewhere (for twice the money) on those days. Had i known what she was like, i would have taken the low pay without a qualm. She was pleasingly displeased when i told her i wouldn’t have her for the whole course, and i saw a flash of the German steel. When i returned to the city, i bumped into the school director, who asked immediately: “was she tough?” i assured him she had been lovely; i don’t think he entirely believed me, and i felt a pang of sympathy, that he had only seen the steel, not the explosive laughter, the girlish, exasperated face she makes, when a word is just out of reach. i think, if it wasn’t for my curious, long-distance relationship with Juniper, i would do some sexy moves on her in the class, come in dressed like an Argentinian pimp or gigolo, fake moustache firmly in place, and suggest we conduct the lesson in a tango dancehall instead.
4. Wittgenstein’s City came in the post yesterday, a so-far interesting book by one Robert John Ackermann. The style is pre-90s (i.e. still alive, though a little awkward) and his approach isn’t as tedious as most academic works. A nice passage:
Sometimes in our linguistic usage experience, behaviour, and language seem completely coordinated, and we can say only one thing, aware that it is true (or false) and could not be otherwise. Because language and experience are interwoven in these locutions, perhaps as the result of something like linguistic natural selection, we cannot imagine that different behaviour or experience could follow if we were to change the syntax of our language arbitrarily. Sentences at these hinge points seem to expose the structure of reality directly, but other sentences that are developed with implicit reference to these points will typically not be certain, even if their meaning, when clear, can be traced to such hinge points. The sentences at the hinge points appear on the horizon of language; we can find them when we note where meaning seems to break down, but we cannot explain why they are as they are.