Tag Archives: English

Sam Selvon’s ‘The Lonely Londoners’

After spendinga longtime intheUK’scapital, it cannot escape one’s notice that the city’s every corner is home to different religions and races. The city is bright with different cultures and more than 300 languagesare spoken within its limits. With every turn, I find something unfamiliar, something new, something British. That is London’s charm; it is as ifa small world lives within the city’s boundaries.It containsin it people of different backgrounds who have brought their origins with them, after which‘white British London’has become‘multiculturalBritish London’.

This ‘multicultural London’is present today, but one has to wonder where it all began. When did London welcome its firstimmigrants?In truth, it is difficult to say for certain. Yes, there have been some periods of time where there was an influx of immigrants; postWorld WarIIbeing the most well-known. Most authors focus on this period of immigration;they write about it, expressing to the world the migrants’ views about moving to a new country and how they were treated.

The novel was written in 1956, but can still be applied to society today. (Photographer: Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah; Flickr)

The novel was written in 1956, but can still be applied to society today. (Photographer: Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah; Flickr)

One of the novels I studiedthis yearwasThe Lonely Londonersby SamSelvon. The modulewas called ‘Post-war to Post-modern,’so I wasn’t surprisedthat the book was a challengingbut enjoyable read.The postmodern period is known to be a struggle to read, as writers experimented with form and language, presenting texts in new ways which take a while to grasp. It focused on something the world still talks about today: migration.SamSelvonwrites in a strikingly uniqueway; his narrator speaks in creolised English just as the characters in the novel do. The book’s theme, aswell asSelvon’snarrative voice, emphasise the changes within London society.   

The novel deals with the arrival of theWindrushgeneration’and describes the everyday lives of a limited number of members from this community.TheWindrushgeneration’ is the term for the Caribbean migrants who arrived in the UKaboard the SS EmpireWindrushinJune1948.The arrival of theship marked the beginning of post-war mass migration. The Lonely Londoners spans over three years and focuses on the life of a Trinidadian named Moses. He is described as having lived in London for ten years, however has achieved little, which causes him to miss his life in Trinidad.His life and the lives of the otherimmigrants, most ofwhomare young, consist of work and petty pleasures as they try to feel ‘at home’ in this new country. 

Continue reading


The Voice of the Little Red Dot: Keeping Singlish Alive

Every time I travel, one of the first things I do is research the language of the country. I find out how to say hello. Thank you. Please. I always thought that perhaps it would brighten a local’s day to hear a foreigner immerse herself in their language, their lifestyle, and learn a bit more about this world along the way.

This brings me to the beauty of my country’s colloquial language: Singapore Colloquial English, otherwise known as Singlish. Continue reading


An Armchair Explorer’s Guide to England

Four years of student living and several periods of fruitless job searching have taught me that sometimes travel, even local travel, can be pretty darn expensive. In these situations, I choose to explore a new place from the comfort of an armchair in my bedroom by turning to books. In my experience, the setting of a novel can play such an important role that it feels as if it is a character in itself. A landscape, a city or even a single building can become so intrinsic to the atmosphere of a novel that it feels as if I am actually there and consequently the book becomes a window into a new place. It also has the advantage of being considerably cheaper than a train ticket. In this spirit, I have trawled the literary landscape and I begin my journey with a partial and completely biased overview of some of my favourite and most evocative English novels.

The Wild and Windswept North

If you are looking for beaches and breezy romance then Yorkshire’s most famous literary exports, the Brontë sisters, are probably not for you. Their tragic lives and enclosed rural upbringing are reflected in their stories and Wuthering Heights by middle sister Emily is arguably the novel most rooted in the landscape. It relies heavily on the ‘perfect misanthropist’s Heaven’ of the exposed, turbulent North York Moors to provide a fitting backdrop for Cathy and Heathcliff. Children of the moors, they are just as untameable and destructive as the land they inhabit. As I sit in my cosy bedroom reading Brontë’s description of the ‘bleak winds and bitter, northern skies,’ I imagine the characters at the mercy of their emotions on the desolate heath below, screaming insults, throwing punches and hurling crockery.

Yorkshire, the land of 'bleak winds and bitter, northern skies...' (Photographer: Lefteris Heretakis; Flickr)

Yorkshire, the land of ‘bleak winds and bitter, northern skies…’ (Photographer: Lefteris Heretakis; Flickr)

Meanwhile the remote settings in eldest sister Charlotte’s Jane Eyre are not quite the same as the jungles of South America or the food markets of Asia, but they perfectly reflect the young governess’s coming of age. The depressing Lowood school squats on a frozen hill and emphasises her physical and spiritual deprivation. I can picture her: a drab, friendless little sparrow, yet she refuses to be cowed and eventually becomes as resolute and unyielding as the ‘grey and battlemented’ Thornfield Hall. After developing a crush on her rather morose employer, she proves to be more than a match for him and after some stirring prose, a big misunderstanding and the death of a conveniently rich relative, everything works out for the best.

Alternatively, for a more cheerful view of the pastoral north, try Frances Hodgson-Burnett’s classic children’s story The Secret Garden, where the spoilt Mary Lennox discovers the hidden beauty in a severe landscape and learns some manners along the way. Then there’s the James Herriot series All Creatures Great and Small, the true tales of a country vet who spent years wandering over hill and dale, meeting strange folk and spending far too much time with his hand up a cow’s backside. More recently, in 2012, Andy Seed produced All Teachers Great and Small, which has a similar premise and records his first year at a rural primary school and the various mishaps he encounters trying to assimilate into the local village. These books explore a placid way of life, perhaps more meaningful to me because they portray a landscape I am familiar with. They may not depict the most glamorous or adrenaline-fuelled side of travel, but the dry stone walls, unpredictable weather and hordes of marauding sheep are spot on.

Continue reading


Sometimes, We Cook the Flies: Working Italy, One English Camp at a Time (Part 6)

‘’Nothing that happens at camp is in any way a reflection of reality.’’ 

Fifteen name tags written and tied ready to give to the kids after our first warm-up circle. Thank God Marissa (experienced return tutor) pointed out to me I have three Riccardos in my class. Books, chalk and paper ready in the corner and my register already feels moist in my hand. The Camp Director sticks her head round the door of my classroom and sees me standing bewildered in the middle of the room, terrified of what’s about to happen and struggling to remember just exactly what urge it was that prompted me to sign up for this six long, long months ago. ‘Ok Charlie. Two minutes… they’re coming in.’

I mentioned previously that being thrown in at the deep end and hitting the ground running was the best possible way orientation could prepare us for camp, and this was true. Every teacher can empathise with the feeling of standing in an empty classroom before the arrival of a new class. When you meet your very first class at your very first camp on your very first day as an English Tutor, you have absolutely no idea what shape the next five to ten days are going to take, and there just isn’t time to think. There’s a large group of children under your care, and if you’re not doing a good job then trust me, they’ll let you know. I found myself doing all sorts to keep my first class engaged, from running around with a box on my head and the smallest child under my arm when teaching prepositions, lying in the dust of the sun-bleached playing field being the hand of a clock when demonstrating a relay race on the time, to getting them all to follow my lead while I proceeded to lick my finger pretending it was gelato and saying ‘thrrrreee’. There’s no ‘th’ sound in Italian, which the kids find really tricky when they encounter it in English and typically substitute it for ‘f’. Getting them to pretend their finger is gelato is a great way of making them stick their tongues between their teeth, and the delight on their faces when they get it definitely makes up for the fact they think you’re a finger-licking weirdo. I didn’t invent this trick by the way, so mustn’t take the credit.

Classroom2(“Every teacher can empathise with the feeling of standing in an empty classroom before the arrival of a new class.” www.utne.com)

Continue reading


Sometimes, We Cook the Flies: Working Italy, One English Camp at a Time (Part 3)

A Day in the Life of an English Camp Tutor

My first two articles introduced my time working for ACLE, but I am well aware that I haven’t actually outlined yet what my days looked like. So, here’s an indication:

6.30am: Wake up. This really depends on how long it takes you to get ready in the mornings and what time camp starts (my first began at 8.30am and finished at 4.30pm) but typically a day at camp is 9am-5pm.

8.30am: Arrive at camp. I found that arriving at camp half an hour before the day officially started was a great opportunity to double-check that everything I’d left in place the night before was still okay, and to deal with any last-minute prep or difficulties that arose, so I was in as little of a flap as possible when it was time for the children to arrive.

9am: Warm-up circle. This involved getting into a big circle, usually outside, with all the children and other tutors, singing songs and playing games. This was where the Hot Ferrari song (from the article on orientation) really came into its own.

9.15am-11.00am: First lesson. The first lesson of the first day at camp is really an ice-breaker, it’s an opportunity for you to get to know the kids and assess their language level. With the younger kids I would fill this session with funny name games and re-capping vocabulary they should be familiar with. With the older kids I’d do a similar exercise but the emphasis was on getting them to speak as much as possible. The ACLE Tutor Manual, which will become your Bible, has lots of great advice for how to have a successful first lesson. Throughout the rest of the week, this time is filled with lessons that correspond with the appropriate page in the children’s camp workbooks. Workbooks come in different colours depending on the language level: with white for the 5-6 year-olds to green for the 14-15 year olds. There are seven levels in total and tutors get assigned classes by colour.

11.00-11.15am: Break. If you’re lucky you might get a chance to do a quick bit of prep for the next session, but I always tried to make sure I had it all done first thing in the morning. Most of the time I would end up wandering around the playground talking to the children whilst stuffing a banana and several biscotti down my throat. Every adult has a duty of care in Italia, and you never, ever leave children to their own devices.

11.15am-1pm: Second lesson. I would typically use this time for show prep, especially towards the end of the week. By this time the children are hot, tired and are not always keen on learning and rehearsing lines. So we’d talk about the show, write the script, make the set and design the costumes.

1pm-2pm: Lunch. The best part of the day! Time to discover what wonderful treats your host mother has packed for you.  Continue reading