Hi Geoff, thank you for agreeing to take part in my Tuesday Blog Feature. Anyone that knows Geoff will immediately think about ‘grammar’. However, today he’s come along to chat about his ‘Five joys of the English Language’.
Without further ado let’s go over to Geoff.
Five Joys of the English Language
It was clear from an early age that my career would centre on English Language. In a school class of 28, I routinely came twenty-eighth in physics and first in English. Here are five aspects of English that have brought me particular joy.
Though I have always loved reading, my reading habits have changed. I used to read novels and plays, but now I also read a lot of poetry and biographies of those I admire, like Laurie Lee, Mary Wesley, and Kenneth Tynan. I enjoy reading vastly different books on the same day: it’s like riding a toboggan in the morning, a camel in the afternoon, and a Ferris wheel in the evening.
As with reading, this has changed. I was a journalist on the university newspaper. Next came years of writing English as Foreign Language (EFL) books. Recently I have switched mainly to novels, short stories, poems, and short plays, and I’ve dabbled with life writing. There’s huge cross-pollination: writing poetry makes prose more intense; writing plays sharpens up the dialogue in novels. I love the discipline of trying to create something that has form and meaning and is beautiful to listen to. For me, sound, rhythm and metre are important.
More than 80% of my working life has been spent teaching English. It’s a joy to deal every day with topics you love, and it’s especially pleasurable when motivated students ask intelligent questions. Never a week went by without me having to look things up which students had queried in class. I’m grateful to them for broadening my horizons.
Teaching is immensely rewarding, but there is one thing missing: an end product. After a course, you wave goodbye to students with a warm glow of satisfaction yet have nothing to show for it but memories. I will never forget the moment when I first held a book that I had produced. Yes! The fruits of three years’ labour nestled in my palm. It’s the same feeling you have if you’re a potter, an artist, or a cabinet maker. You treasure that object for years.
The three main prongs of English Language – grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation – are equally fascinating, and I have done research into all three. As a student, I analysed the language of advertising. In the eighties, I became fascinated with the 300-odd words that have alternative pronunciations – scone, cervical, controversy, zebra, etc. – and set out to discover (by recording people) which were the number one variants. Nobody had ever done that. Later, I did a frequency count of English colloquial idioms.
Once you have been bitten by the research bug, it never leaves you. The more specialised the topic, the less likely it is that anyone has trodden that path before. You are a pioneer entering a vast rain forest, and you may well stumble across a purple-and-orange butterfly that no one else has seen.
Yes, these are my five main joys. All have enriched my life, but if you ask me to single one out, it is research that has given me the biggest buzz.
Many thanks, Trish, for inviting me on your blog.
My pleasure, Geoff. I’ve loved reading about your five joys and confident that my readers will do. I love your quote ‘You are a pioneer entering a vast rain forest…’ I hope you visit again in the future.
More about Geoff.
Geoff Parkes grew up in Hertfordshire and went to Newcastle University before completing an M.A. in English at Cardiff University. He has worked in a timber yard, a dustcart factory, and a ladies’ underwear firm. After TEFL training, he taught English in Norway, Germany, Spain and Denmark. He then founded Southampton English Language Centre and the publishing company, Englang Books.
Geoff has written numerous EFL books, two novels, Whale Soup and Nothing Ever Happens in Clacton, and several prize-winning short stories. His main interests are swimming, hiking, foreign languages, and travel, especially to New Zealand, The Canary Islands, and Cuba.
Details of all Geoff’s books may be found on his website but you may also purchase