Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Visit to England

Preparing for the Journey

Rosa is from Spain. She lives in a small flat in Madrid with her mother.
Rosa's mother is called Maruja.

Tomorrow is a big day for Rosa. She is going to the airport. She is flying to
London. She will stay with an English family in Wembley, West London.

Maruja is a little sad. She likes her daughter, but tomorrow she will have to say goodbye.

Rosa is putting three books in her suitcase. Maruja is watching her. The suitcase looks very heavy.

"Do you need all those books?" Maruja asks.

"Yes, mom! The yellow book is a Spanish English dictionary and the red one is a Tourist Guide to London."

"But do you need that big, black book?"

"Yes, of course, mom! The black book's very important. It's about children. My English family has two young children and I’m going to look after them."

Rosa is very interested in children. Last year, she studied Psychology at university. Maruja likes children too, but she does not know about Psychology.

"But, Rosa ... the black book's in Spanish! It's about Spanish children!"

"No, mom! It's about European children. We're all Europeans now! My psychology book's international!"

"I don't know about psychology, but I know about you. You're my child.
You've got Spanish culture and habits."

"What do you mean, mom?"

"I mean that you have a good Catholic education, you like good food, you have lunch at 3 p.m. and dinner at 10 p.m. You like sun and you don't like rain.
British children are different!"

Chapter 2 ----Meeting the English family
We are now in a street in West London. The sky is very dark and it is raining.
This is Rosa's big day. Her first day in England.

Rosa is getting out of a London taxi. The taxi driver is carrying a very heavy suitcase. They walk through the rain to the front door of a big Victorian house.

A small girl opens the door. She is four years old. Her brother is standing behind her. He is only two years old. One minute later, a young woman comes to the door.

"Welcome to Wembley," she says and she offers Rosa her hand. "These are my two children, Elisabeth and Isaac."

"Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Frost!" says Rosa with a strong Spanish accent.

The two children run back into the living-room.

"Don't worry about them! They're a little shy. And please call me Diana!
Now let me show you your room and then we can have a nice cup of tea. Or would you prefer coffee?"

"I'd like to try a cup of English tea, made in England."

"This is your bedroom. There's a nice view of the football stadium and here's a little desk where you can study. The bathroom and toilet are just opposite your door. Now I'll just go and put the kettle on."

"Excuse me. What's a kettle?"

"In England, we use a kettle to make hot water. We can then put the hot water in a teapot or use it to make instant coffee."

Rosa is happy with her new home, but she is thinking about her mother's opinions. Perhaps Maruja is right. The British are not normal people. They do not kiss when they meet and they live in large Victorian palaces. Their favorite drink is tea and they use strange metal kettles to make the water hot. What is she going to say to Elisabeth and Isaac? How can she make friends with two shy English children? Perhaps the answer is in the big, black psychology book.

Chapter 3 ----Getting to know English children
It is Saturday. Mr. and Mrs. Frost are shopping at their local supermarket.
Rosa is alone for the first time with Elisabeth and Isaac. They are in the living room. The two Frost children are sitting in front of the television. They are watching an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon.

Itchy is a cat and Scratchy is a mouse. The mouse is very intelligent and gives the cat a difficult time. The cartoon is popular in many countries and Rosa often watches it in Spain, but she is not watching it with the children.

Rosa is taking some colored crayons and some paper from a plastic bag.
First, she draws a picture of her English family's kitchen. She then draws Itchy and Scratchy. Itchy the cat is on the kitchen table and Scratchy is under it. The mouse is drinking the cat's milk. The mouse kills the cat with a bazooka and then he throws acid in his face.

Soon Elisabeth and Isaac are looking at Rosa's picture. Rosa is very happy because she has the two English children's attention. She quickly takes some colored paper from her bag. The paper is for Japanese Origami.

"What are you doing?" Elisabeth asks.

"Watch me and you'll see!" she says.

Soon the children are drawing their own pictures and playing with paper models of Itchy and Scratchy.

Later that morning, Mr. & Mrs. Frost arrive home. They are very happy to see their children together with the young lady from Spain.

"What a surprise!" Mr. Frost says. "The children usually watch television all the morning, but now you have their full attention. How do you do it? Do you have a Spanish secret?"

"Your children don't understand Spanish and I don't have any secrets", says Rosa modestly. She does not tell them about the big, black book.

In the evening, Rosa phones her mother in Madrid. Maruja is glad to hear that her daughter is safe and well. Rosa is happy to tell Maruja about English children, Itchy and Scratchy, and international psychology.
Chapter 4 ----First morning at a language school
It is 9 o’ clock on Monday morning and the sun is shining through the windows of a tall building in Central London. Inside, a line of students is walking slowly up the stairs to a large room on the first floor.

Two middle-aged women are sitting at a table at the front of the room. They are looking at a list of students’ names. A tall man is standing just inside the door. He is telling the students where to sit.

"Please fill the chairs at the back of the room!" he says in a loud voice.

The tall man is a teacher, but this is a big school. There are many teachers.
The other teachers are waiting in a room on the second floor.

One of the middle-aged ladies stands up. Most of the chairs are now occupied. She can see faces from many different countries. She looks at the students to get their attention.

"Good morning!" she says in a lively voice.
Some of the students say "Good morning!" but many are silent. She is not happy with their silence.
"You’re all here to speak English! ... Let’s try again! ... Good morning!" she repeats in a louder voice.

All the students say "Good morning!" in very loud voices. Then she smiles at them.

"My name’s Mary Palmer and I’m your Course Director. This is my assistant,
Angela Leach. She’s going to check your passports. We’re both very happy to welcome you to the English Language College. We’ve got the best teachers in London and we’re sure that your English will get better. You’ll also make a lot of new friends. There are people in this school from all over the world!
Stand up all the students who come from Japan! ... Thank you! ... Now stand up if you come from Spain!"

There are eleven students from Japan - eight young ladies and three young men. But there are only two students from Spain. One of them is a waiter from Gijon. His name is Arturo. The other is a psychology graduate from Madrid. She is called Rosa.
Chapter 5 ----The entry test
At exactly half past nine, four women and two men enter the large room.
Mrs. Palmer introduces them one by one. They are all teachers. The women look smart, but one of the men is wearing an old pair of jeans. Mrs. Palmer is not happy with his clothes, but she knows he is a good teacher.
"I'd like to introduce you to Kevin, one of our most popular teachers!" she says, "and I'd like the eight students sitting in the front row to go with him to Room 21. You're going to do a short test!"
It is now ten o' clock. Arturo is with a teacher in Room 11. Her name is
Anne Evans. Arturo is looking at four pictures on his question paper. The pictures tell a story. Arturo is writing the story in English on his answer paper.
Rosa is with Kevin in Room 21. He is testing her listening and speaking.
"How do you spell your surname (last name)?" he asks.
"I don't understand?" says Rosa.
"Your surname ... your family name," Kevin explains.
"Do you mean my family in England or in Spain?" Rosa asks.
Kevin is very patient.
"My name's Kevin Foster. My first name's Kevin and my surname's Foster. Here's a picture of Elvis, the king of rock & roll. His first name's Elvis. Can you tell me his surname ... his family name?"
"OK. OK. Now I understand!" answers Rosa. "But in Spain we have two family names - one from our father and one from our mother. My family names are Garcia and Fernandez!"
"How do you spell Garcia?" Kevin asks.
Rosa thinks for a moment.
"J. ... I’m sorry ... G. ... A.R.C.I.A. - Is that good?" she asks.
Kevin writes a few words about Rosa's English and then looks at his watch.
He has to speak to five more students before the coffee break at half past ten.
"Thank you, Rosa," he says. "You understand some English, but your vocabulary and pronunciation are not so good. I have to check your writing so please finish the grammar questions and the story and put them on my table. Now I need to speak to Yukiko! Tell me Yukiko ... Are you learning English for love or for money?!"
Chapter 6 ----Lunch-time in the English family
"Roger, your lunch is on the table!"
Roger Frost is writing in English on his computer, but there are many French books on his desk.
"I’m coming, dear!" he shouts.
Downstairs in the kitchen, Diana is serving the potatoes. She puts a potato on Isaac's plate and cuts it up into small pieces.
"How many potatoes would you like, Elisabeth - one or two?"
Elisabeth is already eating sausages and beans. She has a good appetite.
"Two please, mom!" she answers quickly.
On weekday mornings, the two children go to a play group in the center of Wembley. Some mothers and fathers help with the play group, but usually parents are free to do shopping and other jobs.
"It's just a simple lunch, today!" Diana tells Roger. "Monday's my busy day!"
Diana is a nurse at a hospital in West London. She works four days a week from 3 o'clock in the afternoon to 10 o'clock in the evening.
"Every day's your busy day!" Roger tells her. "That's why you're my wife!"
Roger is also very busy, but he does not often leave the house. He works upstairs on his computer. He translates books from French, Italian and Spanish into good English.
"Well, today you can work very hard with your translation. Rosa's coming home at half past two and she can look after the children." Diana tells him.
The dessert is also very simple, but the children enjoy it. It is jelly and ice-cream—a hospital favorite because it is quick to serve and easy to eat!
Diana leaves her husband with the children and goes upstairs to get ready for work. It is his job to put the kettle on and do the washing up
Chapter 7 ----Coffee-time at the language school
It is coffee time on Tuesday morning at The English Language College.
Arturo is standing near Angela Leach's desk in reception. He sees Rosa coming down the stairs.
"Hello! Rosa!" he says. He does not want to speak Spanish because Angela is listening to him. She tells the Course Director everything!
"Rosa! Do you like your new class?" he asks.
"I’m not sure," she answers. "The teacher is good, but the course book is very easy."
"Don't worry!" says Arturo. "The first lessons in course books are always very easy. I’m sure your book will get more difficult."
"Well, how about your class?" asks Rosa.
"I like it when the teacher's speaking," says Arturo, "but there's too much
"What's pair-work?" asks Rosa.
"It's when you practice your English by speaking to the person next to you,"
Arturo explains.
"But that's good!" says Rosa. "All the students have more speaking time!"
"It isn't good for me!" Arturo answers. The student next to me reads his dictionary all the time. He looks for words to say, but he says nothing.
When I speak to him, he doesn't understand me!"
"Don't worry!" says Rosa. "Pair-work is very difficult the first time.
Tomorrow it will be very easy!"
"Don't make fun of me!" says Arturo. "You're a very bad person, so I’m only going to ask you one more question."
"What?" asks Rosa.
"I’m alone here in England. Would you like to go shopping and sightseeing with me on Saturday?"
"I’m a very bad person," says Rosa, "so the answer to your question is yes!"