Yesterday I went driving, exploring and photographing in part of what some of my students call Blue Mountain, and what I insist on calling the Blue Mountains. There’s no place in Australia called Blue Mountain, but there are genuine linguistic reasons why some of my students (and, I guess, many others) change the Blue Mountains to Blue Mountain. Many languages do not have the equivalent of English a and the, and many speakers of English as a second language just aren’t used to saying those two English words. Many languages also do not have the equivalent of English plural s (or, as in Korean, it may be optional). English plural s often makes a double, triple or even quadruple consonant cluster with the final consonant(s) – here ns, which many second language speakers find difficult and want to simplify.
The Blue Mountains cover a large area, and people usually go to only a very small part of them. The officially defined geographic area covers 11,400 km2, almost as large as the Sydney metropolitan area (12,367 km2) and larger than 37 sovereign states. The local government area and the state electorate are, respectively, the City of Blue Mountains and the Electoral district of Blue Mountains, respectively.
And they aren’t blue. The sun filtering through evaporated eucalyptus oil gives the scenery a very slightly blueish tinge, but the trees are otherwise green and the rocks brown. I hope tourist books explain that.
The same linguistic issues arose when a student told me that she’d gone to Southern ’Ighland (viz, the Southern Highlands) the previous weekend. This sounded either like Southern Island (there is no Southern Island anywhere in the physical world) or (in my non-rhotic pronunciation) Southern Ireland (ooooh, a lot of Irish history and politics there).
[edit 6 Oct: after I posted on Facebook about another photo-hike to the Blue Mountains, an online friend from Canada told me that there is a Blue Mountain in Ontario (the name of the mountain and a ski resort), as well as nearby town named ‘The Blue Mountains‘.]
I spent rather too long last night thinking about making alphabetical lists of things rather than, you know, actually going to sleep. I thought about making a list of interesting cities/towns I’ve been to, but decided to start with the biggest cities/towns. I got about halfway through last night, then had to do a some extra searching (for cities/towns and populations) this morning. From this list, it’s obvious where I’ve lived or travelled. In some cases the ‘going to’ has been quite brief – a matter of hours.
Busan (SK) (or Bangkok, Thailand if you count one hour at the airport)
Christchurch (NZ) (367,000), honourable mention to Canberra (Aus) (356,000) and Cardiff (Wales, UK) (341,000) – I thought they might be similar sizes. (Our overnight stop was at a motorway motel outside Cologne, Germany but we didn’t even see the city in the distance, so I won’t count that.)
Echuca (Vic, Aus)
Hong Kong (SAR of PRC)
Kalgoorlie (WA, Aus)
London (Eng, UK)
Melbourne (Vic, Aus)
Newcastle (NSW, Aus)
Orange (NSW, Aus)
Queanbeyan (NSW, Aus)
Rockhampton (Qld, Aus)
Townsville (Qld, Aus)
Victor Harbor (SA, Aus)
Wollongong (NSW, Aus)
X – none. There is one place name in Australia – Xantippe, WA, which is 300 km north-west of Perth and which Google Maps shows is located in the general vicinity of Rabbit Proof Fence Rd and Struggle St. Either I plan a trip there, or central China.
Z – none. There’s about 20 place names in Australia, the most notable of which are Zetland (Syd, NSW (I’ve been under it – Green Square railway station is located in one corner)), Zillmere (Bris, Qld) (located off the major arterial roads, so I haven’t even passed through it) and Zeehan (I haven’t been to Tasmania at all). Maybe I can stop off at Zhengzhou on my way to Xi’an.
There are some mistakes which I can understand, and others which I can’t. In class one day this week, the topic was travel, and there were two readings on ‘My worst holiday’. The grammar focus arising from the reading was past simple, because most travel stories are recounted largely that way. The past simple forms appeared in the stories, but the grammar focus activity gave the plain present forms, which the students had to change to the past simple forms, then check them from the story.
One student gave the past simple form of ‘go’ as ‘goesed’, which I don’t/can’t understand how he produced. He has never encountered that form, and there is no rule in English grammar which allows the addition of two different verb inflections, especially when one of them is a present tense form and the other is a past tense form.* Just possibly, he was thinking that she/he/it needs ‘-es’ always, then added ‘-ed’ to make the past tense form, except that the story was told in first person. Just possibly, we would understand the answer ‘I goesed home’ to the question ‘What did you do after class yesterday?’, but would be at least momentarily flummoxed by it.
Another student wrote ‘gone’ as the past simple form. I can understand that. go-went-gone is probably the second hardest verb paradigm for students to remember (behind ‘be’). ‘gone’ is visually and aurally more similar to ‘go’; indeed, ‘went’ began as a completely different word. Certainly, we would understand the answer ‘I gone home’.**
The plane offered the full range of entertainment. I first watched Zootopia, then fell asleep, but didn’t sleep long or well. At about 2 am I decided that I wasn’t going to get back to sleep any time soon, so started watching the Korean movie 오빠 생각 (o-ppa saeng-gak)/A melody to remember, which I’d seen entirely in Korean in January and reported about here. This version had English subtitles, so I was able to fill in a few blanks.
Last Sunday, I attended church in Korea for the last time. At the end of the service, the congregational leader announced that I was leaving, and the priest invited me to speak. I noticed that a Korean woman who’d lived in England for some time, and spoke English well, had also come to the front and was standing next to me holding a microphone, obviously to translate for me. But I surprised everyone, including her, by speaking in Korean, about 30 seconds of thank you and goodbye which I’d been composing in my head the day before and during the service. At the end, I turned to her and said ‘Please translate that’. She was so flustered that she gave a brief summary in English!
1987년에 혼자 뉴질랜드북도에 갔어요. 오클랜드에서 아버지 사촌을 만났어요. 그다음에 버스로 여러 곳에서 구경 갔어고 합창사람들의 회의 다녔어요.
2002년 유럽에 갔어요. 시드니에서 자근 합창하고 노래 부렀어요. 우리 합창 하고 다른 자근 합창 하고 큰 합창 같이 컨서트 투어를 갔어요. 버밍햄 하고 런던에서 영국 합창 하고 관현악단 같이 큰 컨서트들 했어요. 어려웠지만 정말 좋았어요. 그때동안 혼자 기차 하고 버스로 여러 곳에서 구경 갔어요. 그다음에 버스로 서유럽 나라 다섯 개에서 관광 투어 했어요. 아름다웠지만 정말 피곤했어요!
If those of you who don’t know me personally have wondered about the lack of posts recently, here’s the explanation –
Today is the ninth anniversary of my first arrival in South Korea. This is not entirely coincidental; most English teachers in Korea (very much so at universities and less so at language colleges (hagwons)) start in September or March, being the start of the two academic semesters. I lived and taught English in Korea from September 2006 to February 2009 — one and a half years at a hagwon in a regional city (in order to be semi-vague in order to remain semi-anonymous, either Daegu or Daejeon) and one year at a government high school in a satellite city of Seoul, where my girlfriend>fiancée>wife lived. During this time I looked for future job opportunities, and noticed a number of advertisements for teaching staff at Korean universities. The standard requirement was a masters degree and two/three/five years teaching experience.