language, Politics & Social Comment

It’s Only Words – The Language of Brexit

Make no bones about it, yesterday (15th November 2018), was a momentous day in the political history of the United Kingdom. An embattled Prime Minister Theresa May, hellbent on delivering her deal for extricating the UK from the tangled web that is the European Union. Overnight, a seemingly unified Cabinet, supporting the deal as laid out in a 500 plus page document (pity the poor person who had to type it, a short blog takes me days sometimes), submitted to the befuddled and bored looking EU officials in Brussels.

“Hurrah!” They cheered, in French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Latvian, Dutch and every other European language, sick to the back teeth of the whole protracted business.

“Progress!”, they thought, and some tentatively expressed. Yet, the doubt remained ingrained on their creased and furrowed brows.

Then, with an unseasonal warmth in the mid November morning air, everything went very cold, very quickly. The Brexit secretary, the man who negotiated the deal in the first place, the man who knew the minutiae of what had been discussed and agreed to, decided he didn’t like what he had agreed to and negotiated and resigned. Dominic Raab gone, following a path trodden by his predecessor David Davis, who also resigned his position as Brexit Secretary. The poisoned chalice has yet to be taken up as I write.

And the house of cards collapsed from within as resignation after resignation followed, a mammoth 3 hour PM Questions saw Mrs May batting away bouncers from her own party and everyone on the opposite side of the House of Commons (she loves a bit of cricket). She appeared stumped, but following a review on DRS remains not out, going into the second day of what is being politely called #brexitshambles on Twitter. And others in her own Conservative hurriedly put pen to paper to scratch a letter to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee to state their lack of confidence in Mrs May and in an attempt to reach the 48 Conservative Members of Parliament required to trigger a leadership contest.

An utter mess. A shambles. A laughing stock among our European friends and the rest of the world, who look at the cradle of democracy and scratch their heads, utterly bewildered as to what the hell is going on.

And where on earth the arbiter of this mess is. David Cameron, still in hiding since his decision to allow an EU referendum spectacularly backfired on him, leaving him with egg all over his face, that he still hasn’t washed off.

And so to the language of Brexit. The events of yesterday and the state of confusion that pervades every discussion on Brexit and the immediate and near future of the country, inspired me to consider how Brexit is presented. What words and expressions have become so much part of our daily vocabulary, that were previously non existent or used in other contexts.

So here goes, my brief guide (and non exhaustive list) of Brexitisms….

Brexit

It has become a word in its own right. A bit like NATO or NASA. No one ever says, “A meeting at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation headquarters discussed further cooperation on space research with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration”.  And no one ever says, “What on earth is going to happen after the British Exit?”

A British Exit. It sounds about right though. Some of the language has been particularly trenchant, divisive and unpleasant. An exit for us Brits. The rest of the world can use their own exit.

Hard Brexit vs Soft Brexit

Some like it hard, others like it soft. Boiled for 6 minutes or boiled for 3. Either way you still have to crack a hell of a tough shell to get at the insides. And hard or soft Brexit is like a boiled egg. On the surface, they are the same. But once you crack it open, it is quite different. A hard Brexit. Good bye to the EU and all that. No more Single market or Customs Union. Shut the borders. Lock the gates and turn on the security cameras, don’t let ’em in. No we don’t want them. Stay out.

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A voice chirps across the English Channel…”What about all the workers in the NHS, the Spanish, the French, the Italian doctors and nurses. The one’s who grow to love the rain and Little Chef, start developing an accent not out of place on Eastenders or Coronation Street and add their milk after the hot water and tea and know the exact time for dunking a Digestive biscuit? Hmm, what about them?”

Another voice with a lovely lilting soft Dublin brogue, shouts across the street to his Northern Irish neighbour, who replies with gusto in a wonderfully impenetrable mix of vowel sounds.

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“Excuse me Peter. Would ye be after popping over to mine for cuppa or a pint of Guinness?”

“I would really love to John, so I would. But I have get my passport out, wait by the customs border, have a strip search and an internal body check, come back tomorrow to get my visa stamp and pick it up, so I do. I have a better idea. Get the boats, I’ll meet you on the Isle of Man. So I will”

Hard Brexit. Closed borders, restrictions on movement, difficulties in moving goods and trading, panic ensuing in the business community, people flocking to Tesco to stock up on Knorr stock cubes and bog roll. And the peace that has settled on an Ireland with a fantastic flowing, open border, that encourages trade and friendship, tourism, harmony, development, under real risk again.

Soft Brexit. We are going to leave because we don’t like you and don’t want to have anything to do with you. By the way, can we just stay in the best bits, you know the difficult things we can’t find a solution to, you know, just stay in those parts….Single market, customs union, let the good folks of Ireland travel and trade between each other freely, you know, no border in reality.

No Deal. We were happy to kick a ball about with you, but now we can’t agree which end each team is playing from, we are taking the ball away, trying to play keepy-uppy by ourselves. Get your own ball and play amongst yourselves. We are going to have a kick about with our new trading partners. Kiribati, Easter Island and Guinea Bissau. We don’t need you. At all. And we invented football anyway.

No deal is the scenario many are very concerned about and feels a distinct possibility. No deal negotiated to the agreement of all sides. No effective compromises made. Nothing set and signed. We walk away from Europe, turn our backs and in the words of Monty Python ‘fart in the Eu’s general direction’. Then we wake up the next day and wonder what to do now, as the stocks of Coco Pops begin to dry up and people fight each other over the last Stella Artois in the off licence.

Remainers / Remoaners 

Those of you who wish to stay in the EU, say ‘Aye’! Ah, so that is 1,2,3,4,5,6….48% wanting to stay. And 52% wanting to leave. Now, hang on. Democracy in action. The majority won. Fair and square. 52 is larger than 48. So, apparently the good thing to do would be to shut up and say nothing. You had your chance. Live with the result.

Many people in that large minority of 48% are very disgruntled and given the complexities and confusion and the mess of Brexit, are calling for another vote on the deal presented to the EU. IF we ever get one.

And and do stop complaining. Please. Hence the ‘remoaner’ tag. But think of it like this. You are at a dinner party for 15 people. 8 people decide to have the chicken and 7 are vegetarian. The veggies are told, sorry, the majority have decided to have chicken. And that is what you have to have too. Like it or lump it. You have no say now. Eat it or go hungry.

You would not be happy either.

Leaver / Brexiteer

Those of you who wish to leave, say “Aye!” All for one and one for all, say the 52% Brexiteers (and damn the rest of you, and stop moaning.) But let’s be honest for a second. What many who wanted to leave the EU expected Brexit to be, is not a patch on what it actually looks like so far. It is so complicated and so confused, that many leavers are also extremely cheesed off with what has / hasn’t been negotiated. (As long as that cheese is a vintage mature Cheddar and not a stinking Camembert).

The People’s Vote

Briatin has decided to leave the EU. A referendum. A final decision. Let’s leave. Pack your bags, the taxi is waiting. A certain Mr. N. Farage as your driver. Come on hurry up, get in, he is getting impatient. We need to leave. Now. Why are you sitting down? What, you can’t refuse to leave. Oh, that’s it, is it? You want to have a say on where we are going. Skegness not exotic enough for you? Trust you to want to go to Benidorm.

The People’s Vote is a very vociferous campaign, backed by many well known people in politics, sport, entertainment and public life, to put the final EU deal to a vote. “Do you accept the deal or not.” What could go wrong with another vote eh?

Brexit Means Brexit

Mrs. May is good at banging drums with her language. All throughout her election campaign she talked about being ‘Strong and stable.’ Her critics called her ‘Weak and wobbly’. Despite being an advocate to remain in the Eu, as the leader of the country Mrs. May has had to champion the leave cause. Her mantra became ‘Brexit means Brexit’. In that, we will leave. Definitely. We will. I promise. Deal or no deal.

A Brexit deal today seems a long way off still. Mrs May has become Mrs Maybe.

Brexit mean Brexit means chaos means uncertainty mean confusion mean headaches means frustration means…..and so on.

Enough of this.

I had planned to write a list of Brexit terminology for the English student interested in learning how to understand Brexit and what is going on in our fantastic country (because despite everything and all our disagreements, it is still a fantastic country with wonderful people, of every nationality, religion and political persuasion.)

But as I was writing, I realised that any sensible student of English would be better off watching The X Factor than the BBC or ITN or Sky or Channel 4 or 5. It makes a lot more sense and they will learn a lot more than trying to follow the political machinations and politician-speak that pours out daily, like a stream of melted chocolate words. Initially interesting, but ultimately completely unappetizing.

I will leave you with my poem that I wrote to try and encapsulate Brexit.

I remain, while others wish to leave.

Tony

BREXIT – This Way

Goodbye
We’re leaving EU
An exit, really?
A way out of a mess
That was perceived, construed
Viewed through vitriol
And jingoistic pride
In a notion of a nation
That doesn’t exist
To think of a map
That we coloured pink
A pride in the desire
To assert our uniqueness
And to eschew difference

An exit. Really?
An utter mess
But there it is.
No exit, only a door
Locked and marked
‘Keep Out!’
Only Brexiteers
Shouts and jeers
Only Remainers
The I told you so, complainers
You said this, you said that
Everyone reaching for opinions
And donning tin hats.
A mass-debate
Intractable, endless
Argued and misconstrued
Misconceived and misunderstood, confused.

Because brexit
Is no exit
From the shit 
We find ourselves
Wallowing in
Up to our necks
Swimming against a tide
Of bile and hate and division ‘Close the gates we’re full’
Full of what?
A lack of empathy, compassion
Full of passion, yes
For a world painted in a hue
That which from the mirror
Looks just like me and you

Take back control
We’re strong and stable
Cut adrift in a leaking ship
In a permanent brexitstorm
With a captain and crew
Demonstrably unable to
Bail us out and hoping for rescue
Trying not to sink and being told
You scuppered and holed your own boat
And the lifeboats are full
Time to jump ship
Good luck everyone,

BREXIT – this way

More poems collected at frobipoetry.com

Brexit this way

 

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Learning & Education

The ‘L’ Factor – Language Learning

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Language Learning….Having The ‘L’ Factor…

Learning.

The ability to learn a language, is driven by a number of factors;

1. The personal motivation you have – why do I want to learn this language, how much do I want to learn it

2. The needs and reasons for learning it – are you moving abroad for work, are you going backpacking, do you need to learn it because you have been told to by your boss?

3. The interest you have in the language and its cultural / geographical context (No point learning Arabic if you are going to live and work in Japan)

4. The encouragement (or otherwise) you receive from others – do you have friends who speak the language and are keen to practice also. Or do children refuse to practice French with you because…’Dad, it’s embarrassing…’?

5. The environment in which you learn (to learn Spanish in Andalusia, to live and study /work immersed in the culture and landscape of the language is better than an hour a week in an office in Birmingham)

5. The time and opportunities to practice (interacting face to face or via Skype, reading or listening or watching information in the language, the presence or absence of stress / pressure from work or family commitments.)

6. The teaching methods used, or your own approach to learning (Do you write long lists of words with translations or do you select a handful of words and expressions and try to actively incorporate them in a conversation / email exchange etc?….ie actively engaging with the language as opposed to passive learning and not using it.

7. External Factors: Can you find 2 hours to sit and study, free of distractions, the television in the corner, your children playing, fighting, shouting, the dog insisting on that walk, the emails stacked up unanswered, the project deadline looming? Our brains are amazing things, but in order to be most effective at any task, they need a clear, uncluttered, focused approach. Too many distractions and things going on, will limit any effective learning. You need to create the time and space and provide you mid with the freedom to learn.

8. Confidence to use the language, and enjoying making mistakes – We all make mistakes. I do. Every day.  Even as native English speaker of 50 years and an English language teacher of over 20 years. So don;t expect perfection. Nor worry about making mistakes. Mistakes are the lifeblood of learning. I once asked for a cup of tea in Indonesia, without sugar;

“Satu gelas teh, tanpa gila” There was a look of disbelief, followed by a broad smile and a laugh. I repeated my request. More laughter

“Oh mister, satu gelas teh, tanpa gula?”

You see I had asked for “A glass of tea, without crazy.” Gila is ‘crazy’, Gula means sugar. Easy mistake, a funny mistake and one I immediately remembered the next time. The mistake and my confidence to make the mistake led to my learning. If I had just read the word ‘gula’ in a dictionary, it would not have had the impact, the positive impact, the mistake had.

So be confident. Try the language out. Make your mistakes and the learning will come.

Good luck.

Don’t forget, if you are looking to improve your English, for any reason, from work, to university studies, to travel, my online English classes are right for you. I will work with you to tailor the right course for YOUR needs.

Get in touch and let me help you learn English more quickly and effectively.

And by the way, when you are practicing your newly learnt English, mistakes are positive things. Make them!

Best wishes,

Tony