Are you ready for the most original love story this January? Below we have a sneak peak of the hilarious How to Fall in Love with a Man Who Lives in a Bush, the witty and heartwarming story of how author Emmy Abrahamson met her husband..
‘I love cock!’ the woman says cheerfully.
I look down at my notes, scribble something illegible, place the ballpoint on the table and clear my throat.
‘What you’re trying to say . . . I think . . . or I hope . . . although I’m happy for you if you really feel that way . . . is perhaps that you love to cook. To cook. Not . . . cock.’
It’s the eleventh lesson of the day, and I’m so tired I’ve started rambling. What’s more, I’ve spent the whole time looking down at my mint-green information card to remind myself what the student’s name is. Petra Petra Petra. Worryingly, I also notice that I’ve taught this student at least three times before. And yet I have no memory of her. It’s as though all my students have turned into a single, faceless blob that’s unable to distinguish between Tuesday and Thursday, and stubbornly refuses to use the perfect tense. A blob that continues to say ‘Please’ in reply to a thank you, despite my hundreds of reminders about saying ‘You’re welcome’. A blob that believes language learning is a process that occurs automatically as long as you’re in the same room as a teacher.
With a quick glance at the clock I realise there are still another twenty minutes till the lesson is over. Twenty minutes of eternity.
‘And, er . . . Petra, what kind of food do you like to cook?’ I ask.
It was never my dream, or plan, to become an English teacher. But after four months’ unemployment, the advert saying that Berlitz was looking for teachers was almost too good to be true. The training course was only two weeks long, and as soon as we were finished we could start teaching. Even so, I spent the first few weeks glancing at the door and expecting the ponytailed guy who’d run the course to come rushing in and breathlessly exclaim: ‘It was only a joke. Of course you’re not allowed to teach. We were just having a laugh!’ before throwing me out onto the street and escorting the student to safety. That was when I was still sitting up late every evening preparing the next day’s lessons. I carefully drew up lesson plans, making sure each class was varied and entertaining. I made copies of interesting articles, wrote down questions, drafted inoffensive role plays and laminated photos that would lead into relevant themes for discussion. All to get my students speaking as much English as possible.
Now they’re lucky if I even glance at their information cards before entering the room. This minor rebellion on my part started the day I realised I’d been teaching for significantly longer than the six months I’d planned and – even worse – that I was good at it. I was both patient (who’d have thought that would be the main ingredient for a good language teacher?) and had a knack for getting my students to speak English. Now that I’ve stopped planning my lessons and they’ve become a mystery to both me and my students, life has become a bit more exciting.
‘Oh, everything. Schnitzel, sausages . . .’ says Petra.
‘Complete sentences,’ I say, encouragingly.
‘I like to cook schnitzel and sausages,’ Petra says obediently.
Because the basic rule of the Berlitz method is that you can learn a language through everyday conversation, I can keep a lesson going for as long as I can come up with things to talk about. My three years as an English teacher have turned me into an expert in small talk. Once I got a student to talk about the lock he’d changed on his garage door for a quarter of an hour, just to see if I could.
‘And what’s your favourite drink?’ I ask.
Petra considers. ‘Tap water.’
‘Complete sentences,’ I repeat with a strained smile.
‘My favourite drink is tap water,’ Petra says.
I continue to smile at her, because I genuinely have no idea what to say to someone whose favourite drink is tap water.
For the final fifteen minutes, we do a cookery-themed crossword. When the bell rings I let out a little pretend sigh and turn down the corners of my mouth to show how sad I am that we have to finish. We shake hands, of course, and Petra disappears off home, probably to a dinner consisting of schnitzel and sausages washed down with a glass of tap water.
How to Fall in Love with a Man Who Lives in a Bush is out on 25th January.