Friday, September 29, 2006

English as a foreign language

Siobhan, my brother's lady companion, is learning to teach English as a Foreign Language. It can't be that hard, can it? I mean, she already speaks English, right[1]?

(Ignoring the self-evident facts that teaching is a discipline that requires talent and hard work to learn and that all her students will, by definition, have bad or no English).

Anyway, tell me what's wrong with this sentence:

Look at that big beautiful Italian red sports car!

(say it out loud if you can't see it. If you still can't hear it, swap sports with big and try again)

Ah, adjectival order. We don't get taught grammer in school anymore, so you can't tell me what the order is without looking it up, but you know when it's wrong. If you want to know more about adjectives, this site, which is American, is pretty good.

First person[2] to send me the sentence with correct adjectival order wins their choice of a bucket of beer[3] or one free range egg.

Update: Note that adjectival order is different in other languages, which is why you have to teach it to people who don't speak English. Foreigners who have not learnt English to an advanced level will often get it wrong. You can use this to try and spot them. Watch out! Foreginers are everywhere! (Especially in other countries)

[1] Having spent several years living in Vermont as a child, she occasionally speaks American, but foreigners mostly can't tell the difference.
[2] To handicap Stan, who has too much time on his hands, he will have to send me an illustrated version.
[3] In this case, bucket means pint glass or bottle.
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