Flip flops and an identity crisis – (an item to tickle your sense of humour)

I’m a brilliant teacher. I’ve taught English for over 20 years. (Probably more, but I’d rather not count.) I know all there is to know about language acquisition – a posh way of saying language learning  – well, I’m supposed to – after all I spent 10 years writing a PhD thesis on the subject!

I have a bright idea that no one else has thought of – well, okay, maybe it is what teachers do anyway but my idea is better. I like to say it is more profound.

The theory is, you get students to follow a 4 step progamme:

First they ‘notice’ – meaning ‘look at’ the target language, then they relate it to what they know, they practise it and then they recall it later. Simple. This is obviously the best way to learn.

Okay then. I should be able to teach myself by following this method. I’ll be fluent in Spanish in no time. At the moment I speak a kind of Spanglish – a pigeon Spanish littered with the wrong nouns, words without endings and absolutely no verbs in the past or future.

My cleaning lady has moved my flip flops.  I know I should do my own cleaning – I have such a small flat — but she is Spanish and I want her to help me learn the language. Unfortunately, she has no teeth, speaks a dialect and yells so I am not doing very well. I cringe to think what the neighbours hear when we try to have a ‘conversation’. My favourite word is ‘que?’ So I’ll have to get the Spanish word for ‘flip-flops’ just right. It is not in the dictionary (surprise, surprise). In desperation I ask on Facebook – Maureen kindly gives me the word. It is ‘chancletas’. There, I’ve noticed my new word. Now how am I going to relate it to what I know? – simple – they are my flip-flops and I can picture them easily. I need more. Okay I’ll use the Linkword method – you know, you imagine silly interacting pictures that sound like the word. What does chancletas remind me of? I suppose the first bit is like ‘chunk’, the next ‘let’ and the last ‘us’. So I could imagine saying ‘Chunk let us …’ Who is Chunk? – Well Chunk sounds like ‘Hunk’ so I’ll imagine a hunk of a man. Mm. What would he ‘let us’ do? Something funny, or bizarre with flip- flops. Maybe he would let us have a flip-flop fight – boring. Maybe a flip-flop eating – no I feel sick. I know, I’ll imagine Chunk letting us cover his lovely body with flip-flops. Mm that’s better.

Okay, so what’s the word? My picture springs to mind. Mm What is the word? – something to do with flip flops and a good-looking man – oh Hunk, – I mean Chunk – ah yes Chunk let us Chancletas. Brilliant! See it works. Now I’ll try to remember the word for flip flops tomorrow.

Tomorrow came and I remembered a gorgeous looking man covered with flip-flops, but could I remember the word? No chance. I despair. I think I’ll just look up sandals in the dictionary when the cleaning lady comes.

(This piece was written in a similar style to the book ‘Out of a Learner’s Mouth’: the trials and tribulations of learning Spanish) …


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