i now have two groups i hate, my Tuesday evening Peruvian bitch session, and one on Wednesday afternoon at a finance company. In the latter, the students all work in IT. One has a considerable speech defect and mental problems. Having to use language involves a strange writhing, constantly twisting her body about, biting her arm, whimpering in apparent pain, and burbling rapidly, mainly in German; what English i can make out is mainly IT speak, e.g.

Elberry: Kerstin, how was your week?

Kerstin [about 10 seconds of absolutely incoherent noises, just fragments of syllables and whimpering]

Elberry: i see.

Kerstin: Und, der [incoherent noises] cluster are nicht operativ aber der whole weekend muss [noises] selbst machen [noises] mainframe nicht [noises] problem mit dem [noises] so ich mache [noise] zuviel work [noises] stressig  [noises for another 20 seconds, in which not a single word, German or English, may be discerned, during this period Kerstin frantically gnaws on her upper arm].

Elberry: i see. How long has it been like this?

And so on.

Another student, Cornelia, isn’t as evidently insane but seems unpleasantly puzzled by the human race, and especially by language. She is in her 50s, lives alone, and despite having taught her once a week since summer i know almost nothing about her. A typical conversation:

Elberry: How was your week?

Cornelia [looks suspiciously at me for 5 seconds]: Fine.

Elberry: How was work?

Cornelia [suspicious silence]: Fine.

Elberry: What did you do at the weekend?

Cornelia: Nothing.

Elberry: Did anything even slightly interesting or different happen this week?

Cornelia: No.

Later, i gave them an article about jobs and asked each what they like or don’t like in their job, what kind of job they would do if not this one, etc. Not a single student could identify anything they liked or disliked in their job, nor did they have any interest in doing anything else. i experienced a strong desire to brutally murder the group.

Elberry: Cornelia, what do you like in your job?

Cornelia: Nothing. It is all the same.

Elberry: Really? You don’t like anything about it?

Cornelia: It is a job. I doesn’t have to like it.

Elberry: Okay. What don’t you like about it?

Cornelia [contemptuous shrug]: Nothing. It is all the same.

Elberry: So it’s just a grey fog of nothingness?

Cornelia shrugs.

Elberry: So there’s nothing good about it, nothing at all?

Cornelia shrugs.

Elberry: But nothing horrible either?

Cornelia: Do this job for 35 years and you don’t know what horror is.

i have tried & failed to find a single topic that will inspire these appalling geeks to use the English language. Work, hobbies, holidays, cars, education, food, it doesn’t matter, they respond to everything with “fine” and “no” and shrugs and “don’t know” . 2 hours with this group is hell as i have to improvise on the spot, firing questions at them till it’s time to go. i don’t know why they bother coming, since most of them never use English at work and attendance isn’t compulsory; another teacher suggested they come “because it’s free”. i hate them more & more with each passing week though Cornelia amuses me a little with her resolute loathing for other people, including me.

i have a group i much prefer most weekdays, an Arbeitsamt (job centre) class, mainly hot women. Yesterday i learnt that one of these babes (a Hungarian sexpot) slept with a teacher and i know another teacher seduced/was seduced by a Russian student, who then demanded, Putin-style, to live with him in his teacherly hovel.

Such tales are common, especially regarding Eastern European women. The women in my class flirt with me, out of boredom i think, as our last class (test preparation, so duller than usual) elicited higher levels of innuendo, hair stroking, and lingering smiles. i ignore it and occasionally mention my girlfriend but i believe these women regard this as a challenge and indeed a sign that, to quote The Departed, you can’t be a total loser if someone is willing to put up with you. They asked if i would come to the stammtisch (the McLingua monthly pub session, students & teachers together) but i said i hate such events and avoid them. i believe this is the easiest solution, to just never meet them outside of class. i am, in any case, quite good at repelling women.

i enjoy this class though it is not without its teacherly difficulties. For example, we were doing some bullshit email about some bitch being promoted and how “she was eventually made Senior Auditor”. It seems that in Kraut, eventuell means “maybe” or “potentially”:

Student: This says she was not the Senior Auditor.

Elberry: Uh, no, it says she became the Senior Auditor eventually – after a long time.

Student: When I read this it says me she had not this job. She left before.

Elberry: No, eventually just means “after a long time”. For example, Claudia drank glühwein all night, and eventually she fell over.

Student: But she was not Senior Auditor.

Elberry: She was. After working there for many years, she was eventually promoted.

Finally, someone broke the McLingua rule of no translations and ascertained that eventually was a false friend. Even then:

Student: I read this and it says she was not the Senior Auditor.

Elberry: No. Eventually doesn’t mean eventuell. i know it sounds the same but it has a different meaning. Please, just forget the German. It doesn’t mean the same thing. It just means “after a long time.” After a long time, she became Senior Auditor.

Student: This is confusing. I do not understand.

Later, i had to try to explain why you would say “I didn’t recognise Bob” instead of “I haven’t recognised Bob”. i usually just say, airily, “you just have to feel the difference” but decided to try for something more useful. i tried to explain that the mental state, of recognising someone, means that when this mental state changes, and you realise that this person is Bob, you recognise them NOW, so the past mental state is finished, in the past, and we should therefore use the Past Simple.

No one understood a single word.

After such classes i sometimes wish i had a job requiring few or even no human interactions, but then remember i did such jobs for 5 years in England, and hated them.

i would, however, like to beat some of my students.

 

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