Monday, October 19, 2009

Parisian Personalities

Every one of my classes at Anglais Oral Accéléré contains different personalities and I have encountered a wide range of people. Some have an excellent sense of humour and are friendly and pleasant. Others are not so easy going and are so over confident in their own abilities that it takes a great deal of energy just to convey the necessary corrections. One of my favourite groups comprises Katie, Nadia and Hung. Hung is an extremely enthusiastic guy from Vietnam. He is fluent in French and in Vietnamese but has a great deal of difficulty pronouncing English words. Nevertheless, he tries hard, is very keen to learn and, the atmosphere in the group is such, that each member feels comfortable enough to laugh, either at their own mistakes or at those of others without any malice.

Nadia is an interesting character. She is, I suppose, in her late fifties and usually arrives late accompanied by a wave of expensive perfume, perfectly coiffeured hair and designer clothes. She apologises profusely for her lateness before settling herself into her chair and adopting a look of utter concentration which is only interrupted by fits of laughter at Hung’s mistakes. Last week we were discussing music and, when asked what kind of music she liked, she replied R and B. Interested as to whether or not she was just responding with the first thing that came into her head, I probed for a little more information. As it turns out Nadia is a fan of all the modern R and B artists including Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and Kanye West and listens to them on CD in her car. I have no doubt that this is, in fact, the case and I ca picture her cruising round the affluent 16th arrondissement in a brand new Mercedes sampling the newest tracks from her favourite artists.

One of my lessons yesterday was a new group and I could tell instantly that they were going to be an easy and rewarding group to teach. Firstly they were scheduled to complete the book in 15 hours as opposed to 30 - if people do very well in their original assessment, but not quite well enough to do the next level up, then this is what we recommend. Secondly they were friendly and adapted to the method very quickly. They seem to be a particularly studious group and when they were checking their dictation for mistakes it was highly amusing to listen to the low murmuring coming from each person interspersed with jubilant cries of ‘ahh oui!’, ‘J’ai oublié ca’ and ‘Ca s’ecrit comme ca!’. I had a big smile on my face by the time they had finished and I went round to each person to double check for errors they had missed.

Last weekend was particularly eventful and started with the Saturday night shift at Breakfast in America. Ian had been working since 11am and was to take an hour break at 6pm before coming back at 7pm. In the hour Ian was away Ellie worked behind the bar and I took care of the floor with Lucy who would be leaving for the evening at 7pm. The first point of contention arose when Ian returned. Ellie asked him to go behind the bar for the evening but, since he had already been behind the bar for seven hours that day he didn’t want to do it for the evening shift as well. I should point out that Ellie has no more authority than Ian, in fact, she doesn’t have any more authority than me either but does have the advantage of having been there longer. As I have mentioned before Ellie tends to flap and as a result loses her patience fairly soon into a busy shift. It didn’t help matters that almost every party were ordering milkshakes - something that vexes Ellie over anything else is making milkshakes – you have to ask the kitchen for the ice cream AND clean the blender afterwards, I mean, honestly!

As a result, Ellie was in a foul mood and snapped at Ian and me all evening, that was, until she needed stock from the cellar. She asked Ian who refused point blank and this was when things really came to a head. I was on the floor when I head Ellie scream something from the kitchen and Ian retaliate with a volley of abuse. Ellie banged down to the cellar and Ian returned to the floor looking a little sheepish. No one really spoke for the rest of the shift and when all the customers had left they really flew at each other. I went outside to sweep the pavement of discarded cigarette butts left my people waiting in line for a table and when I came back things had quietened down somewhat. By the time we left they seemed amiable enough to one another and we each went our separate ways to join our friends around the city who were taking advantage of ‘La Nuit Blanche’.

‘La Nuit Blanche’ involves artists displaying installations all around the city for one night only. The whole city comes out to view these attractions and there is a wonderful party atmosphere. By the time we had finished at Breakfast in America and had a couple of drinks after the shift it was nearly 1am and I went to meet the others in a pub. Needless to say I saw very little art that night which is inexcusable. Instead we moved from venue to venue before consuming a huge amount of food bought from a Greek take-away shop. The night ended with my struggling with the velibe system but eventually managing to release one and cycling home.

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