Category Archives: Teaching Thoughts

The job

Holnap és hónap squared

Holnap és hónap squared

Holnap és hónap squaredl
We could all ascribe word play to any nuance of the language we so wished but in so doing we may risk being misunderstood, or worse being arrogant enough to think we should have been understood. For learners of a foreign language, the vaguely familiar becomes something of a beacon and so it is understandable that we begin to see a logic, a connection, where in reality there isn’t. For example, tomorrow isn’t a toast to Morrow and yet poetic and archaic, morrow still means tomorrow, therefore at least there is an idea to it having meaning, ie making sense. But there are no divisive women in Mérnök, even If to an outsider it’s all just a matter of time: time in this case being the length of time given to the vowel sound Ö , not Ő. Same thing isn’t it. It’s just another funny looking O. Blah, blah, blah. It is, get over it! (Oh, don’t you just hate it when foreigners try to tell you what’s what concerning your own language, well, the language you learnt to speak first, your mother tongue, even if you were snatched from your mother’s arms at birth and raised solely by your father. Many cans of worms could be opened up here, but really, who in their right mind would even want to bother!)
When I think of csizma, rather when I hear it, I’m immediately drawn to the notion of a request for cheese as directed at one’s mother. Then when I playfully rehash it as sajtanya, I get queer looks or prolonged groans. It really isn’t funny, they’re saying, but maybe I don’t want it to be funny. Maybe I was trying to be creative with the language in a way a native never thinks to do. Of course, a Hungarian who knows no English is very much entitled to tilt the head from side to side in incomprehension, but one would at least like the more proficient speakers to accept the foreigners’ input. “We would never say that” Who’s that WE? I have a Hungarian poet friend who probably would, and probably has. Maybe WE is restricted to terribly unimaginative people, or maybe that’s just my way of getting people to come over to my side. Insulting people for their beliefs in the hope of changing their minds, or at least silencing them, is all the rage these days. “Deplorables, I tell ya. Deplorables!”

Holnap és hónap a harmadik

Holnap és hónap a harmadik

Seeing then that words are oft times mispronounced, misheard, misunderstood, or mistaken for other words, even among natives of the mother tongue, is it any wonder then that foreigners to the tongue arrive at unforeseeable difficulties and, more appropriately, adapt to its nuances, perhaps even adopting some of the idiosyncrasies associated with other learners of the language. There’s safety in numbers so they say.
Has this ever been truly hammered out in diplomacy? Have studies been undertaken to the degree that there is no possibility that some trade deals have collapsed not because of stubbornness or foolhardiness but rather because of mere misinterpretation? Not just that old claptrappery of lost in translation but rather just lost, full stop. For want of a word the kingdom was lost.
But now that’s another thing: where we see the division is not always where it should be, even if it makes sense. King-dom is clear even if in these nomenclatural times the UQ would be more appropriate , or is that already so 20th century! The United Gender-non-specific-dom? Too much even in these effervescent times? Yet it’s the words that can be broken up differently and still contain meaning; these are the ones that can lead to new perspectives the point of view of the native speakers. Others hold the same sound in the target language but often with quite different definitions.

© The Hairy Teacher, March, 2018

Holnap és hónap kettő

Holnap és hónap kettő

So if you’re to look at words with the foreign eye you might be tempted to see some familiarity, even order. As a child learning to spell, the word together was always broken up into the sum of its parts, to-get-her, and though I never did find out if anyone ever did get her, or for that matter why she needed to be got, it helped me to remember. But in the world of foreign languages sometimes the familiar can have unforeseen, dare I say, deadly consequences. Now if you get to feeling a tad sheepish because you said you’re pregnant instead of embarrassed (the Spanish word embarazada means pregnant), it mightn’t amount to anything more than a knowing giggle, but perhaps you’re trying to flex your health food savvy in France and think that asking if the relevant food contains preservatives is a good idea, just remember that the French word Préservatif means something ever so slightly different.
As for together, I later learnt that the root is more to do with to gather, which makes perfect sense if you consider the full meaning of both words. That still doesn’t help me with spelling and therefore she will forever more be bound to the pursuit, inextricably linked to the getter in the equation.

Holnap és hónap

Holnap és hónap

Holnap és hónap Part 1: The Digression
One up road, I’m sorry to say, does not sound like van apród, at least not to a native English speaker. We make a distinction, you see, between the V and the W (among other things). In Hiberno-English, or as it’s more broadly known, Irish English ( not Irish by the way, that’s Gaelic) this is even further exacerbated when you take into consideration the pronunciation of Up. No way the ‘ap’ in apród is going to sound anything like up, and don’t bother with the “but that’s how it is in British English” British English, otherwise known as RP, or Received Pronunciation, is a fabricated nonsense of ye old British colonialism, and should therefore have no place within the language learning classroom, and even where you may argue towards a model, and RP is convenient Cos of all those dictionaries and things, it still isn’t the De Facto English. It’s something but it isn’t the be all and end all. If you’ve learnt English that way, you’ve learnt nothing ( for lessons to set you back on the path to real knowledge). But even when you take RP into consideration the V/W distinction is glaring, yes glaring, so a Wet Vet isn’t a stutter, it’s an uncomfortable condition. A Volkswagen beetle isn’t a Folksvagen because as English speakers we don’t give a toss about how the Germans say it. Protest all ye want, but if you are one of the ones arguing for RP then suck on the tail pipe of this reality: English is the Germanic dialect come home to bite the hand that nurtured it. From an alternative dialectical position RP doesn’t warrant the respect you’d extend it, so if you’ve ever argued in its favour but fight vehemently for the right of Germans to say F for their V and V for their W, that’s all well and good (in fact I agree as it’s their language) but you’re only contradicting yourself. RP is RP because of arrogance and prestige, in as much as mispronunciation of other people’s language is the privilege of that same class of people. Call it ignorance when the working class holiday in your pubs and on your beaches and yet label it eccentricity when it’s hob nobs in your five star hotels, finger fooding in your diplomatic circles, or basically expecting you to bow to their every need, even if it’s in your own country. The Queen came to Cork, but the Fishmonger stole the day. You see, that’s the Corkonian way.
Before I digress let me return to the beginning and, whether you have change or not, let me just make it clear. In English, any English, Van (The Hungarian word) never sounds like One (the English word) but if it ever becomes accepted as the standard Pronunciation I may by a conservatism borne of age, protest, but in my Irish heart I’ll also delight at the notion that napról napra the English are losing control of their language. As an English teacher I can only hope that I’LL stay favourably ahead of the trends, or at least not lag too far behind. Van Apród, One Up Road…I get. A student dealing with difference needs to draw some familiarity and that’s why in this Snowday I’ll never dwell too much on the Whereday even less on the supposed error as English speakers and learners alike may have spotted in that preposition.


© The Hairy Teacher, March, 2018

A letter to any listener

A letter to any listener

Hi there

How are you? How’s tricks? How’s the family, or not? How now brown cow! Any news? Well, apart from the usual nonsense…

[Blah blah blah]

Anyway, as for the teaching regulations I seem to have avoided their web for another while and am still in the white as far as invoicing goes but it’s becoming more and more difficult. If the companies are spooked then rather than jump through the legal hoops they’ll just jump ship. As far back as 2011 there was a change in the law which meant that companies to whom I issued invoices had to cover my health insurance payments. A funny thing about it was that in some cases this seemed not to be true, while others, believing the initial rumours, wanted instead to pay me in black. Two years on the companies that stayed with me have had no trouble so whatever shadow had passed over in those dark ’11s had dissipated…only to loom much larger as of Sept 1st this year…when, indeed, the law stated much more specifically that people of my disposition, the idiots-for-honesty, were most definitely dis-entitled to issue invoices with the trademark “nyelvoktatás” code. Instead in a frantic scramble for legitimacy another existing code was sought out and came in the guise of “egyéb oktatás”. That there is a clear distinction between the two is obvious in the way of spelling, and may even be supported semantically, but to say that what I actually do has gone from being “language” teaching to “other” rings of something sinister. I see myself in a coutroom some time down the line pleading innocence in the light of allegations of some newly contrived perversion as distinguished by an ever-enlightening-ruling-elite (the word government ringing too much of communist ideologies by that time). That my case will hinge on the ominous term “other education” will certainly be my downfall and as I am dragged away by my oppressors I will rage loudly and invoke the honest Hungarians now resident in Slovakia (and other Trianon treated regions) who at once in a darker past woke one morning to find themselves strangers in a strange land, and note that in my own demise I may take heart that I am not alone. A man made criminal, a man made foreigner, in my case to the profession that I once purported to be be qualified to do.

For now I do bid you adieu.

Martin of the Magyars


A ‘road’ by any other name

Pitypang utca…on 29 bus line

Why this street in particular caught my attention has nothing to do with what’s nearby, not even that a famous writer took up residence here (if there was one I’d like to know), but that to an English speaker’s eye the actual street name could, in certain circles, and for reasons of mere hilarity, take on a whole other significance.

You see in English both the words ‘pity’ and ‘pang’ exist and to put it briefly they, in concert, would seem to suggest a physical discomfort caused by a rush of sorrow for somebody. What, if anything could this mean? Come with me!

In fact, placing these two words together in English can make a lot of sense and where a person is particularly sensitive this could even be considered a physical, emotional, or on a greater scale, a psychological condition. A pitypang could cause a physical manifestation with a display of fresh tears, not unlike women (me never! just dust in my eye) weeping to every romantic comedy ever made. The emotional reaching deeper could put one’s spirit off tilt for a period of time, one to an immeasurable number of days, not unlike…! However, the final disposition, itself entering the realm of madness could make certain people a lot of money even if the final prognosis is no more enlightening than it was some thousands of dollars, pounds, euros (remember them?) before.

We can of course have pangs of hunger, pangs of guilt and maybe having pangs of hunger on a medium income can cause pangs of guilt when we realise that we are, regardless of our immediate state, a lot better off than 90% of the world.

Anyway on a bus one evening coming home from work, looking up from my book, the sun nearly in my eyes, I managed to glimpse this sign and from that moment this moment ensued. “And that has made all the difference.”

P.S. Pitypang is the Hungarian word for Dandelion…by the way

A little explanation

Why not

To those of you who have come to my webpage as students I do realise that some of the material here is difficult but as to the themes written about I would be more than willing to help you understand and discuss them with you further. In truth this site is a good place for my creative writing as well as advertising my teaching. In time I hope to develop a student oriented forum but till then use the comment boxes at the end of any of the posts to make any suggestions, or go to my email address: You can also find me on Facebook, The Hairy Teacher, so Like me and let’s begin to develop together.

Thanks for your time and patience.



As one


Though a definition to partner includes the idea of two people undertaking any amount of actions, the word can be found littered across business to sport, from dance to relationships, in all instances it does have that cooperative feel but within the realm of romance I get the feeling that now, well for the last 10 – 15 years ( I’m working to the prehistoric scale here), it has taken on a role much like Ms did before it. Exploring Ms /miz/ we find ourselves delving into the feminist world, and the struggle within it, as with PC (political correctness not personal computer), to redefine somebody without attaching a stigma. Miss was very much unmarried, Mrs married, but Ms allowed for ambiguity, of which an advantage may be gained where people would be of the tendency to discriminate on the first two titles. Employers come to mind.

Well for me the word partner cropped up more and more often as the nineties grew older with people perhaps finding themselves victims of discrimination if their marital status or sexuality was to become public knowledge. In a world too often dominated by conservative values unmarried couples with children and same sex marriages were, and let’s be honest, still are frowned upon even in more liberal socities. Whereas the latter group have highlighted this point through their reception at Gay Pride marches, the former too finds itself getting the short end of the stick when it comes to basic legislation. A former student of mine, on hearing that my girlfriend was expecting, actually advised me to get married if I wanted to avoid the reams of paper work which would most certainly be incurred. I didn’t listen to her and needless to say in hindsight it was the worst thing I could have done.

I, personally, still use girlfriend when referring to my partner as we are unmarried but sometimes wonder as to the juvenility of that. Some of my friends have even suggested that girlfriend seems less commital, though these people also reside in the married domain and therefore may be begging the question.

Occasionally I have to wonder as to a person’s sexuality if they mention their ‘partner’ but allow time and further information to raise me from my ignorance. Now ‘girlfriend’ as sometimes used by my female students to refer to their friends who are girls still manages to draw a giggle. Boys will be boys!

On the whole whether you use partner, wife, lover, girlfriend, spouse it makes no difference for love by its nature renders the inane tolerable, and by inane I mean any debate on titles! Careful now!

An open mind

Be open to it!

The first thing I want to say is that it is my intention to create a language based site where students can come to read articles, correspond, ask and even answer* questions concerning usage of grammar and vocabulary. Because (!) English is a rapidly expanding language and is important in so many fields, not only business, I feel that an open mind is necessary to appreciate exactly what these changes mean. Forget what your teacher told you in school ten years ago, well not forget exactly, just keep in mind that things have moved on even in the last decade and that what was once true of the language may not now necessarily be so. With the advent of TV the influence of American English started to first creep back across the water, and now so much farther down the line, internet, SMS, for example, we find a truly blended usage of the living language, sometimes to the point that I, as an English teacher, am uncertain as to the original usage.**

*/** As a teacher I have come across questions which I have answered confidently only to learn later that what I’ve expressed is old-fashioned, or maybe even too colloquial. English has this capacity which is one of the reasons that makes it durable, as well as exciting. Come along with me and I’ll show you how.

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