Present Unreal Conditional

Happy New Year!

The transcript follows the video, which is entitled ‘What if money didn’t matter?’ One of the reasons for choosing it is the more traditional style of spoken English, as opposed to recent videos which have focused on American pronunciation. There are a few interesting phrasal verbs too!

“What do you desire? What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you like?

Let’s suppose – I do this often in vocational guidance of students – they come to me and say ‘well ..ah.. we’re getting out of college and we haven’t the faintest idea what we want to do’

So I always ask the question: What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life? Well it’s so amazing as the result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say ‘Well, we’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets, we’d like to be writers, but as everybody knows you can’t earn any money that way!’ Or another person says ‘Well I’d like to live an out-of-doors life and ride horses.’ I say ‘Do you wanna teach in a riding school?’

Let’s go through with it. What do you want to do? When we finally got down to something which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him ‘You do that! And forget the money!’ Because if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time! You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living – that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing! Which is stupid! Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you are doing – it doesn’t matter what it is –  you can eventually turn it…. you can eventually become a master of it. It’s the only way to become a master of something, to be really with it. And then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is. So don’t worry too much, somebody is interested in everything. Anything you can be interested in, you’ll find others who are.

But it’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like in order to go on spending things you don’t like, doing things you don’t like and to teach your children to follow in the same track. See, what we are doing is we are bringing up children and educating them to live the same sort of lives we are living. In order that they may justify themselves and find satisfaction in life by bringing up their children to bring up their children to do the same thing. So it’s all retch and no vomit – it never gets there! And so, therefore it’s so important to consider this question:

What do I desire?”

Pulp Fiction


Okay, Christmas is coming and I’m going to need a few books to read. I’d like to get through 3 if possible so I need to get thinking about what to read.  I came across the following video recently, and was immediately transported 16 years into the past, to a time when I was studying at university and enjoying the freedoms that accompanied this period of my life. One of those freedoms included having more time to read than I have now.

During this time, I was given a copy of Charles Bukowski’s Post Office, which was a hilariously vulgar description of alternative-living in 50’s and 60’s America. It deals with ideas explored by the Beat Generation, a literary movement which represented the American counter-culture at that time.

So in this moment of crisis, general disaffection with politics and distrust of the ruling classes,  it could be refreshing to re-read some of those writers, those who looked at life from another side of the social divide.

The following video is a recital of Bukowski’s poem, Nirvana.

Charles Bukowski’s Nirvana from Patrick Biesemans on Vimeo.


Back to the future…


Hi again,

Blogging is supposed to be a very addictive habit. That doesn’t seem to be the case with me, so thanks for your patience. Looking at what I’ve blogged about this past year, a recurring theme seems to be technology, and how this is juxtaposed with a fascination of how we used to do things in the past. As readers will know, I consider the abundance of technology at our disposal today as being a primary driver in the development of 2nd language learning, particularly in terms of the acquisition of English as a 2nd language.

Yet…. the future of 2nd language learning more than likely resides in the past; well, the past in terms of more traditional structures and systems. I’m talking here about CLIL which is Content and Integrated Language Learning. CLIL entails the teaching of some traditional subjects, for example, geography, history and science in state schools by the usual teachers of the subject. I’m not talking about a specialist 2nd language teacher like myself, but about teachers in primary, middle and high schools who teach subjects not in their mother tongue language but in a 2nd language, whatever that language may be.

The term CLIL was coined by David Marsh, University of Jyväskylä, Finland (1994): “CLIL refers to situations where subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual-focused aims, namely the learning of content and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language.”

The key lies in the competency of the (geography, history, science) teacher using the 2nd language simply as a vehicle to improve proficiency in a chosen 2nd language, while imparting the same content as requested from a syllabus point of view. This means of course that teachers who have spent their professional lives teaching through Italian, will have to work hard to bring their English up to a level where they can teach the same content through English. The process should ideally start at primary school and work its way up.

It puts the whole industry of English teaching in particular into perspective. The dedicated hour or two a week on a chosen language from primary to high school has generally proved to have a limited impact in terms of language proficiency. It creates a base yet not a lot more. Private schools have entered the fray and offer so-called ‘specialist’ extra curricular courses which promise to cure all ills, although in the majority of cases are simply offering a re-regurgitated (although smaller class size) version of what 6-18 year old students find at school. The same grammar, the same books, the same syllabus and the same approach in 90% of cases.

The industrialization of English has been progressing strongly over the past 30 years and it’s possible that an apex is being reached as regards the levels of proficiency that can be achieved. It is this evolution that has led to the examination of how 2nd language learning can become less 2nd language centered and more 1st; the proposal of a model which requires students from 4-18 to enter a state school structure which demands bilingual learning instead of simply desiring it; a system which makes the same demand of its teachers. We all remember how boring some lessons at school can be. Research has shown that studying the same subject / content in a 2nd language increases stimulation levels, as students are not only required to absorb content, but to do so while grappling with the complexities of a language which is not their own. Research has also shown that the process of learning itself is enhanced as a result of this two-way interaction, and school results where CLIL is evolved and practiced have reflected this fact.

The following video is related to this concept. Looking to the past to improve the future. The speaker is American and has a southern accent. This accent is one of the most difficult encountered by English language students, yet when softly spoken, as is the case in this video, it’s a delight.

American Tintype from Matt Morris Films on Vimeo.

Sam Maguire

Mayo Legends

This is an important sporting weekend for me. My home county, Mayo, is playing against Donegal for the Sam Maguire Cup, in the All-Ireland football final. The last time we won this competition was in 1951. We’ve been in the final many times since but just haven’t been able to go the extra mile. Hopefully that will change today. Most of you reading this will have no idea what Gaelic football is. It was constituted as a sport in 1887 and was part of a determined effort to promote Gaelic games and Irish culture on our island, while Ireland was still under the rule of the British Empire. It was founded on a strictly amateur ethos and had to compete with rugby and association football (soccer) for popularity. The most interesting aspect of the sport is its tribal nature. You’ll say that all team sports are tribal but Gaelic football is strict in that sense. To play for one’s county and win an All-Ireland, is the highest honour for a player. Only players who are born, live and work in the county can play for their county. There is no transfer system for players, unless you happen to live and work in a different county for an extended period, so as a result changing allegiance is unusual. Players do not receive payment for playing, although there are reimbursements for expenses. Players hold down full-time jobs and train 4 times per week, after work in the evening with games at weekends, and have the fitness levels of professional athletes.

Each of the 32 counties can take part in the All-Ireland Championship. The 4 provinces in Ireland: Ulster, Munster Leinster and Connacht, are involved in play-offs until a champion emerges from each province. Mayo are the Connacht champions this year, while Donegal are the champions of Ulster. There are a further series of games until the two finalists are decided. The final takes place on the 3rd Sunday of each September.

The final is played in Croke Park (Páirc an Chrócaigh), and is watched by 82,000 spectators; an incredible statistic for an amateur competition and a testament to the importance of Gaelic games in Irish life. The sport has endured even with the overwhelming global evolution of football in England and the development of rugby in terms of popularity.

Of no less importance for many Irish people this weekend is the most important derby game of the English football year, Liverpool vs Man United. Although coming from different cities they are separated by a mere 35 miles and more importantly by 1 title (United having won 19 and Liverpool 18), being without doubt the two most successful sides in English football. I’m regularly asked why it is that so many Irish are passionate about English football; Man United and Liverpool in particular. The answer surely lies in the fact that United and Liverpool both hail from traditionally working-class, immigrant cities with huge Irish populations. Another reason is that the best Irish players have always played club football in England. An example of this is Kevin Moran, who won two All-Ireland finals with Dublin and then went on to win two FA cups with Manchester United.

Paul Scholes, who Zinedine Zidane said was the finest midfielder of his generation, had the following to say about United – Liverpool games; “Manchester United against Liverpool is always the first game I look out for when the fixtures come out. Maybe the games against City and Chelsea are now just as important because they are more of a threat in the league, but United and Liverpool are the two biggest clubs in English football with huge, worldwide fan bases. It’s a massive game.”

And this for me is without doubt is one of the most significant aspects of this weekend from an Irish sporting point of view. It’s on the one hand a celebration of our culture, our identity and our stubborn determination to extol those characteristics which define us as Irish, while on the other hand a celebration of certain teams in the country of our former oppressors, which through emigration we helped to shape and build. It’s something that defines me as an Irishman, and something that makes me proud.

Come on Maigh Eo!

Highlights – Mayo vs Dublin All Ireland semi final 02/09/2012