ZELLA COMPTON: Brits – the frightened children of Europe

Zella says we'll be lost if schools on the continent stop teaching English
Zella says we'll be lost if schools on the continent stop teaching English
The Lush store on Oxford Street, London, one of more than 100 of their high street cosmetic stores facing backlash for featuring a 'damaging and distasteful' campaign criticising undercover policing. Picture: PA Wire

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Last week we had Dutch exchange students staying.

That’s the first time we’ve had kids from the Netherlands.

That’s one thing they have in common with my children straight off the bat, the look of horror when I start to speak.

Previous nationalities have included Spanish, French, Russian and a couple of Chinese.

In my head I love having students, I think they’ll bring interesting cultural debates to the dinner table, that we’ll learn from them, that they’ll instil us with a sense of global joy.

Then, each time they arrive, the reality sinks in. These are frightened kids who speak a few words of English, are deadly embarrassed and have no idea what my few words mean which I’ve practiced to make them feel at home.

That’s one thing they have in common with my children straight off the bat, the look of horror when I start to speak.

But the Dutch – wow. In they came, chatting away at full speed in English, laughing at jokes, making their own jokes.

And here’s the rub, they’ve only been learning our language for two years. They told me that all their lessons were in Dutch, and then (I think at about our Year Eight) everything switched to English.

All lessons, all conversations, all answers from teachers. Slow, laborious English, but English just the same. And now they’re pretty much fluent. There were one or two stumbles. One student went upstairs to fetch his slippers ready to go to the beach. He returned with flip-flops, but even so, the fact he knew the word slippers was impressive.

I wonder how many schools in our country take teaching language even a quarter as seriously? Giving time to language development, maybe every day? And I know that we’re reluctant, being as everyone speaks English, but will that continue to be the case as we crash out of Europe?

Why would the EU stick to English as its universal language when we’ve gone? Surely they’ll adopt a tongue that is native to at least one of the countries in the room?

And within 10 years or so, we’ll be ruing the day we laughed-off having to learn what was in our rucksack, and where the library is.

We’ll be like those frightened kids soon, sitting at the dinner table without a clue about what’s going on.

ONE LABEL I DON’T MIND

Just how much am I loving the new Smirnoff LGBT campaign? The answer is: a lot. Obviously I have my usual pedantic problems with the fact that it states something like: labels aren’t for people, they’re for bottles, straight after it’s said it’s supporting LGBT, which is a label in itself. Putting that aside, the message of inclusivity comes through strongly. And as the campaign is supported by the LGBT Foundation, it all feels good. To me it’s an advert full of beautiful people doing their own things, while having lots of beautiful fun. What’s not to love?

Even though it is for vodka, anything which brings people together right now, should be celebrated. It’s time to focus less on what divides us, and more on the uniting factors.

NUDE BATHERS HAVE EARNED THEIR KUDOS

How fantastic is the news that over 2,500 women simultaneously went skinny dipping in Ireland to break a world record? What I particularly liked about this was that they had to stay in the water for at least five minutes. It always bothers me with new year swims when people run in, shriek, and run straight out.

A timed event feels like it’s taking itself more seriously, that kudos has been earned. According to The Guardian, the previous record was set in Australia where it seems to me the water would be substantially warmer, and thus the timing part should have been a breeze.

So hats and everything else off to these women for claiming the right to show their bodies, and smashing a record – seriously – while they were at it.