Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | November 29, 2011

Accept the language as it is!

Accept the language as it is!

This is a real hard thing for some people to do, I’m finding. 

They all want to know why! Why is it like that ? Why can’t it be like that ? It’s not like that in French, so why is it like that in English ? 

I’ll take the most basic example: how old are you ? Why don’t you say “how old have you ?”. I could spend hours in class just explaining this one particular point.

Today, I was running “complaining” role plays in class. You had to negotiate to try and return various items to the shop and inevitably, the French word “vendeur” came up. 

Let’s not pretend, most of my students think in French and translate when they’re speaking English a lot of the time. So, of course, they wanted to use the word “seller”. Except that the word “seller” sounds exactly like “cellar” (cave) in English. And when have you ever heard an English or American person saying “the seller”. 

What they’d actually say is something like “the person I spoke to in your shop/store yesterday told me that if I returned my product today if I didn’t like it, I could get a full refund”. No need to mention the word “seller”.

Another example: “interlocuteur”!

If you look in the English dictionary, you’ll find it, no problem (on BBC radio 4, too, perhaps!)

But in day-to-day speech, people will just say “the other person” or “the person on the other end of the telephone line”. 

So, today my discussion went something like this:

A: The French “interlocuteur” is much better than “the person I was talking to…” because it’s shorter.

B: Yes, but if I say to my youngest son (he’s three and a half) “interlocuteur” or “interlocutor” he’ll go “what?!?” whereas if I say to him “the person I was talking to…” he might have a chance in hell of understanding.

So, perhaps we have stumbled across the real reason why you should learn language naturally.

Reactions below, please.




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