British Studies Web Pages

Views of Britain


Mrs A's Diary

Mrs. A, English teacher, mother to two demanding teenage children, and wife to an even more demanding husband, is a regular feature of our pages. In this issue, Views of Britain, she uses a lot of visual phrases and figures of speech. . If you need any help understanding these visual expressions in her diary, just place the mouse over the purple ball following an underlined word or phrase.

Looking on the bright side of lifeseeing the best of a difficult situation

11th February, Monday

First day of school after the winter break. The weather’s looking upimproving but otherwise there’s little prospect of hope. The Head asked me to his office and informed me that a number of teacher training college and university students would be carrying out some surveys for their diploma theses in our school. They will be collecting materials for the topic ‘Inter-cultural awareness among adolescents.’ My class is going to be under scrutinyunder careful examination tomorrow morning. In view ofbecause of our permanent lack of qualified staff, he suggests I co-operate and show full support. He gave me a meaningful looklook in a way that clearly expresses what sb. feels/thinks even if nothing is said and added something about ‘for the future well-being of the school’. I get the pictureunderstand something. He thinks that if I’m nice to these diploma students they’ll come back running to teach here. Some chance! The moment they collect their ‘scientific data’ he’ll see the back of themsee for the last time.

12th February, Tuesday morning

The students have arrived, or actually one has: long-legged, blond and very chic; as pretty as a picture very attractive, and a real Cindy Crawford look-alikesb. who looks very similar to sb. who is famous. With such good looksattractive appearance, physical attractiveness the chances are she’ll run away from teaching as far as she can. When I brought her into the classroom, Krystian stood gawking open-mouthed look at sth. for a long time in a way that seems stupid and the rest of the class stared in awesome silence look for a long time without moving your eyes because sb. is impressed. I introduced Roxana to the class, (even her name smacks of show-biz), and explained her presence. She asked the class to write the following on little slips of paper:

1)       three things, concepts or names which they associate with Britain and

2)       one statement about Britain.

‘What means concept?’ asked Luiza, ‘and what’s statement?’ An unpleasant truth was staring me in the facebe confronted with sth. obvious
. They can’t even form grammatically correct questions and don’t know some basic vocabulary. I tried to glare at them fiercelylook at with anger, hate, etc., but nobody paid any attention to me. After a while, the Head looked indirect one’s eyes into sth, e.g. a room, a building. Trying to see how the wind blowsfind out what the situations is like or what it is likely to be? He looked Roxana up and down examine sb. thoroughly, in an enquiring or sexual manner, and although I detest that kind of male sexist behaviour, I didn’t want to make a scenestart an argument or cause a disturbance in front of the class.

It took a good twenty minutes to collect the answers. Considering the fact that three pupils were absent, Ernest spent the whole time gazing out of the windowlook steadily at sth., and Dominik, (with two fingers in plaster), couldn’t write, we were lucky to get 15 responses, (of which 3 were blank pages). Roxana offered to photocopy them if I wanted to study the responses in depth, but I decided only to take a peeplook quickly at sth.. I’m not that bothered about keeping a watchful eyewatch sth. carefully, check the situation on my pupil’s ‘intercultural awareness’. It’s hard enough teaching them the tenses and watching over their mannerstake care of sth., guard sth.. But the break was so short I didn’t even manage to glance atlook quickly or carelessly, often in passing what they had written. Fortunately Roxana had photocopied them for me.

Tuesday afternoon

I’m reading the answers now. There are twelve; one, a mass of illegible scribble, doesn’t even merit a glimpsenot deserve even a hasty look. But the others deserve close scrutinya very careful examination.

I. 1) Harry 2) Potter 3) Harry Potter

    Harry Potter is better than Lord of the Rings.

No spelling mistakes, although the factual information is open to debate. Written by someone who still reads, probably Klaudia. She may well have a blind spotunable to understand or see the importance of sth. about Lord of the Rings.

II. 1) David Beckham  2) Michael Owen 3) red devils

    Dudek plays for Liverpool.

Once again, a case of limited scope of visionlittle ability to see many different subjects in many different ways. Probably written by Tomek.

III. 1) Hju Grant 2) Mrs Been 3) Prince William

     Elton John is gay.

Because of Polish phonetic interference I’m almost facing the problem of the use of offensive language. With two letters reversed I’d need to report the case to the Head.

IV. 1) tea 2) with 3) milk

     In Scotland men dress skirts.

I’ll have to tell them to look upcheck the meaning in a dictionary the difference between ‘dress’ and ‘wear’, and ‘kilts’ and ‘skirts’. This one obviously saw the film Braveheart but must have missed Trainspotting.

V. 1) Naomi Campbell 2) Kate Moss 3) good shops

     Clothes are beautiful in England.

Obviously a fashion victim and a weight watchersb. careful about what they eat so that they don’t get fat, probably Daria.

VI. 1) England 2) London 3) Tamiza

      Irregular verbs are stupid.

Looking on the bright sideseeing the best of a difficult situation, it is a relief they know how to spell ‘irregular’.

VII. 1) Queen 2) left-hand driving 3) rain

       The English stole our discovery of Enigma.

Well, before we see outto see something through to the end the century there will be more re-writings of history to suffer.

VIII. 1) fish and chips 2) bacon and eggs 3) toast and marmalade

         The police are called Scotland Yard.

Written by someone who hadn’t had breakfast. But why the police? Should I start watching my backbe careful of the people around?

IX. 1) Wilson Cherchil 2) batle of Grate Briten 3) Shekspir

      The Englisch sing God save the Qeen and don’t go to cherch.

A serious reader who obviously does not see eye to eye withagree with sth. or sb
the English spelling system, and who has some serious gaps in the knowledge of history. Dyslexia? 

X. 1) Big Ben 2) Spice Girls 3) Diana

You are ‘niez³a laska’ but I don’t know so much interesting words in English.

Poor Krystian. If only he knew that the word he so desperately needs in his vocabulary is ‘a walking stick’. (I wonder if this is what the British mean by ‘a real lookera very attractive female (slang)’. It’s so easy to see through himrealise what they are doing or what their intentions are. Hormones, if you ask me.

XI. 1) red buses 2) Oxford 3) ladies in hats

      I want to go to England.

Hmm, I do too.

I was looking at eleven answers thinking: should I be pleased or worried? Is it just a bunch of stereotypes or can we discernsee, recognize or understand sth. that is not clear any elements of ‘intercultural awareness’? Look at it this wayconsider this. If someone asked average 13-year-olds in Britain for their associations and statements about Poland, what would they come up with? Would anyone think of Maria Curie or Chopin - hardly Polish names. Perhaps the only name mentioned would be Jerzy Dudek. So that’s our shared Polish-British cultural experience. Although I take a dim view disapprove of sth. of sociological research carried out in my lessons, I think Roxana’s thesis may be quite useful for studying intercultural awareness among adolescents. And my point of viewmy opinion is to always try to look on the bright side of lifesee the best of life.

PS. My diary, as I was looking at my pupils’ answers I felt I was gawpinglook at sth. or someone in a foolish manner like a ‘wó³ na malowane wrota’ or maybe ‘sroka w gnat’. My linguistic powers fail me again. What are the English equivalents? Why aren’t there in the language of Shakespeare such mind-boggling similes? An ox and a painted gate, a magpie with a dry bone. Beauty is in the eye of the beholderwhether sth. is considered beautiful or not depends on who is looking. I looked at my pupils’ answers again…..

Follow-up Activities

  • For a follow-up quiz on these idioms, click here.
  • For the full list of idioms used in the diary, click here.

If you are interested in reading about intercultural approaches to teaching English, you can find a selection of articles here.

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