When Hate Catches You Unaware

When I first decided to share my first post on several Facebook English teaching groups, little had I suspected I was already on a bitter path. The kind of path that you find yourself on when you ask for opinions and what you get is an open personal attack based exclusively on where you were born. One could also say I was looking for it, just by being there.

Did I not know there are people who still think like a century ago when it comes to language, race, culture or religion? Did I not at least suspect that there are people who are still willing to use nationality or birthplace to label, judge and condemn all at once? Did I really expect to have a decent conversation, however controversial? Absolutely. What I never intended was for a question about the appropriateness of teaching English as a non-native speaker or what and how native speakers feel about sharing a profession with non-native counterparts to lead to aggressive verbal attacks from some of the former.

However annoyed a native English speaker might have felt when reading my question, did that even begin to justify my being called “you and your people are the scourge of Europe and nothing will get the smell of campfire out of you”? Did that somehow explain my receiving private messages with pictures of poorly dressed people in front of an ATM, allegedly trying to rob someone and supposedly sharing my nationality, only to help make the point that my countrymen know nothing better than stealing as if that were somehow a fact? Did my question actually justifiably provoke people to lash out on my English accent, even though they had never heard me speak? Did that somehow logically result in a discussion about the wrongs of immigration, the reasons some voted for Brexit or what a mistake the EU was?

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Mai puțin de cinci secunde

Sub 5 secunde. Atât timp de emisie la oră de maximă audiență a acordat televiziunea publică din Spania faptului că ultrașii aflați pe Arena Națională nu au respectat minutul de reculegere de la meciul România-Spania din cadrul calificărilor la Euro2020.

Pentru jurnaliștii spanioli – nici mai buni, nici mai proști decât alții sau, în speță, decât cei români – faptul că versiunea românească a hooligans ori nu a înțeles de ce se păstra momentul de reculegere, ori pur și simplu a ales să nu-l respecte pentru cine știe ce motive dubioase a fost considerat profund nesemnificativ și alăturat faptelor diverse sau cel mult exotice, cu care să acopere ultimele secunde ale unui reportaj sportiv.

Mai importante li s-au părut jurnaliștilor spanioli detaliile unui meci care până și mie mi s-a părut emoționant în reluare. Au consemnat pe bună dreptate toate fazele în care portarul român a salvat echipa în momente de infarct sau câți nervi le-au provocat românii adversarilor, în special după golul marcat de români în repriza a doua, și cât de mult s-au luptat spaniolii să mențină scorul în favoarea lor, ca să culeagă încă o victorie, și nu doar un egal, care să îi mențină în fruntea clasamentului grupei.

Ei bine, cam pe aici se sfârșesc toate cunoștințele mele despre fotbal, inclusiv cele de vocabular specific.

Ceea ce nu încetează însă să mă surprindă este ușurința și deschiderea de neînțeles ale unor compatrioți care au ales să acorde interpretările cele mai profunde unui astfel de fapt divers. Acțiunile unui grup restrâns de oameni care simt că trăiesc cu sau pentru fotbal, care există peste tot în lume, care nu sunt nici mai buni, nici mai răi decât alții, au ajuns astfel să capete implicații legate de percepția românilor în afara țării, greutatea politică a României pe scena internațională, necesitatea sau posibilitatea mult-invocatei ”schimbări” (a țării, a poporului, a clasei politice ori a votanților – asta încă nu mi-e clar), delictele comise de unii etnici în Occident, rușinea sau scârba pe care mărturisesc că ar simți-o cei din afara granițelor față de cei de acasă. Ba am citit chiar un titlu care indica ceva despre ”semnele unei involuții culturale” – și evident că am renunțat să-mi continui lectura, căci am simțit că firul logic era mult prea întortocheat.

Lipsa de respect a ultrașilor galeriști români față de suferința și durerea fostului antrenor al Spaniei, pe care echipa lui națională a vrut să le consemneze înaintea meciului din România au căpătat proporții de epopee lirică pe rețele sociale: am ajuns să citesc că ”iar ne-am făcut de rușine în străinătate”, ”de asta știu spaniolii doar că românii fură cupru sau nu au dinți în gură” ”ce durere, ce mizerie”, ”mi-e rușine să dau ochii cu colegii spanioli”. Nu știu câte valuri de autocritici digitale au curs în România, multe sub sloganul generic “vaaaai ce rușine, ce greață, ce needucați suntem”, dar de multă vreme mă tot întreb dacă fatalismul mioritic și autocritica asta bâzâitoare, superficială și care izbucnește cu cel mai insignifiant pretext nu constituie exact motivele pentru care unii simt rușinea asta generică ori de câte ori cineva, oricine, cu același fel de pașaport, face ceva reprobabil.

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No, Not, and None. So Which Is It?

Negatives are tricky in any language, and apparently all the more so in English. But they shouldn´t be; at times, it´s just because English is all over that some of its simplest uses turn into headaches.

No and not are two of the most common English words to express negation. And it´s as simple as this:

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How to Say 0 in English

Spoiler alert: this is a text for all those who still believe English is simple because it has no overly developed vocabulary. To them and everybody else I suggest you take one simple item of vocabulary – the number 0 for instance – and try to think of at least three ways of saying it. Here is a hint for you: there are more than three.

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All the Love for English Past Tenses

The English language has something as romantic as an unreal past. What is that – a past that is not real? Is it because it never happened? Never will? It´s actually a down-to-earth grammatical term and it refers to situations that are not real, because did not happen. But the beauty I still see in it is the distance the past manages to encompass.

Only it´s not the distance in time the past usually sets, but the distance from reality, from things that actually did happen.

The unreal past is often used in conditional sentences or in situations that express wishes or regrets. Broken down, it´s the use of past tenses – past simple and past perfect mostly – for hypothetical situations that might exist at some point, but did not yet.

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Learning English: Do You Need a Teacher or a Native?

<<You cannot possibly teach English if you are no native; maybe you can explain grammar rules, theoretical phrasing and irregular tenses, but only a native can really teach the spoken, common, salt-of-the-earth, real language; English belongs to the native-speakers>>

My guess is some of the above is all too known to many teachers and learners of English alike, and unfortunately, it all comes down to a question of belief. That is, not based on any provable evidence from reality. And that is truly sad because most often than not, human beings are prone to embrace fiction, creativity, art, originality and then some more – but this suspension of disbelief is many times not even tolerated when it comes to teaching languages.

So basically, we are all too willing to accept the reality in a science-fiction movie, the love story of a power couple in showbiz, or even the given interpretation of the most beautiful impressionist painting – but when it comes to teaching languages, we know for sure that only native speakers can do it. It’s like a treasure that only natives have access to, a longed for good that only natives should be allowed to share, an earthly possession that only natives know how to use.

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No Love Lost for English in Spain

Yes, after several years of teaching English as a foreign language in Spain, and after months of trying to inspire my students to love English for its versatility, liveliness, richness, and even playfulness, I have come to terms with the hard truth: Spaniards don’t like English.

Maybe there is no likability there; maybe that is a moot point; maybe there are several reasons to it. But the fact stands. I am not trying to make it a general statement, to fly this slogan over all Spaniards, or to impose my opinion on just about everybody. Let’s just say I currently don’t see any love lost for the English language in Spain.

From what I could gather, English has always been what Spaniards call la asignatura pendiente – a booed curriculum subject of sorts that pupils and students alike had to stumble upon at some point and that is doomed to never be ticked off the list. For some, the rejection started with the very first primary school English teacher who did not speak English and yet forced irregular verbs and plurals, tenses and adjectives on their pupils. For others, the resentment grew when once on a highly competitive and at the same time relatively restrictive labour market, they found themselves served with the mandatory English exam. To some, English is just the foul-smelling pill they have to swallow to have a chance at a job for life in the public sector. To others, it is just something they have to have in their resumes, since you know… you never know.

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