Learning English

I worked in the English Language Centre at the University of Newcastle, NSW before I retired. Working with Overseas Students was delightful, and I learned that although cultures can be very different, according to what they have been taught, each nationality has its same mix of bold, shy, affectionate, questioning, diffident, etc. Once away from their own culture they would soon relax into the Australian way of blending and relaxing.

A student who had arrived with only basic English would often come to my island desk to ask a question. I got used to ‘joining the dots’ to form the intended sentence, then I would feed it back and give an answer.

Most of our students were Asian: South Korean, Japanese, Chinese, with Iranian, Maldivian etc., but the query that threw me most was from a friendly Spanish girl, our lone Spanish student.

“Euneece, what does ‘arsehay-holay’ lmean?’ That sounded more Spanish than English or even Australian English!

E”How do you spell it?”

“A.r.s.e.h.o.l.e.” Arsehole. Slang for the anus or the exit of the alimentary canal, but also a description, usually of a male of nasty , unscrupulous character. Example: He is a right arsehole (arse hole) – in common usage in Northern England.

I suspected mischief afoot from one of the Elicos teachers upstairs. How to answer without losing dignity, and still keeping a straight face.

“You had better ask Caroline.” I said gently. It is called passing the buck.

It may be politically incorrect, as most things these days are, but for the past twenty-odd years I have had a satisfying new word in my vocabulary, though rarely used. 

“see that unhelpful bus driver? He is a right arseyholay!” Very satisfying.


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