Tuesday, 16 November 2010

"Three Men on Wheels" by Jerome K Jerome

No, I’d never heard of it either.  ‘Three Men in a Boat’ is well known and much loved, and this one is utterly delightful too.  The same protagonists (without the dog) head off into the Black Forest with a tandem and a single, and the tales are classic Jerome.  Written in 1890, my favourite passage is about the teaching of languages in English schools:
“In England we have a method that for obtaining the least possible result at the greatest possible expenditure of time and money is perhaps unequalled.  An English boy who had been through a good middle-class school in England can talk with a Frenchman, slowly and with difficulty, about female gardeners and aunts; conversation which, to a man possessed perhaps of neither, is liable to pall.  Possibly, if he be a bright exception, he may be able to tell the time or make a few guarded observations concerning the weather.  No doubt he could repeat a goodly number of irregular verbs by heart; only, as a matter of face, few foreigners care to listen to their own irregular verbs, recited by young Englishmen.”
How perfectly does that describe my own experience of learning French at school, and sadly, more recently, my experience of trying to learn Spanish.
The Navigator