Over the years it has happened to me often, in fact on a daily basis; in shops, pubs, cafes, cinemas, restaurants … actually in every place I happened to open my mouth, (to speak that is -:)!
And it goes like this;
Friendly New Zealand English Speaker, (FNZES): ‘Oh hiye! You have a lovely accent; where you from?’
FNZES:’ Vising New Zealand?’
Me (smiling): ‘Actually I live here.’
FNZES (smiling): ‘Oh, that is nice, how long have you been living here?’
Me (still smiling): ‘Long time, some 18 years.’
FNZES (still smiling): ‘Oh that is sooo lovely; and you still have such a strong accent! How did you learn English?’
Me: ‘I just watched Coronation Street a lot’.
FNZES – doubles over with fits of uncontrollable laughter and after some time turns to a colleague; ‘Mate you are not going to believe this!’
Well, after few of those I stopped confessing in public to have learned English from Coro St. But it is true … I did! To that day I am not quite sure what is so funny about it!
In case you do not know, (something hard to imagine but still -:)), Coronation Street started as a British television soap opera more than 50 years ago and over time has developed into an institution, with its own language, phrases, accents, characters and loyal fan base. It is the world’s longest-running TV soap still in production.
Of course I did not know any of that when I first stumbled upon the Coro’s lovely Ken and Co. Lonely and desperate to learn English, I tried to watch TV as much as I could. My idea was to absorb the language like music … and it worked! Why Coro St?
Well, of all the soaps and a day-time TV programs on offer, only Coro’s characters look like real people, and working class people at that! They lived in tiny, red-brick terrace houses and slogged in such places as the knickers factory for their daily crust and pint. I could so relate to that! My first jobs were in factories and so were of all my neighbours. When I was a student I had a regular gig with the local rubber factory. Our favourite songs started with; ‘and now for the grave yard shift …!’ When I moved to New Zealand and found myself on the grave yard shift in a timber factory, it was like ‘welcome home cuzzy bro!’ (that is a story for another day -:)).
Coro Street inhabitants had real life dramas and come up with most vivid descriptions of each other’s; ‘Skirt no bigger than a belt, too much eyeliner, and roots as dark as her soul.’ (Blanche Hunt).
They made most accurate observations when at AA meetings; ‘I’ve never heard such self-indulgent whinging in all my life. Is there some correlation between how boring you are and how much you drink?’ (Blanche Hunt).
They resolve their love-life problems in a most matter of fact way; ‘You tell Karen about the baby, I will make you pay, I will make you suffer.’ (Steve McDonald).
They provide encouragement for neighbours’ new business ventures; ‘An alcoholic and an arsonist open a bar? Sounds like the start of a joke.’ (Blanche Hunt).
Once I absorbed enough of ‘blimey me’, ‘bloody hell’, ‘gobsmacked’, ‘stick t’kettle on’, ‘I say nowt’ and alike, I tried to use them upon any of my FNZES I happened to be talking to … for some reason, and to that day, they laugh uncontrollably every time! What’s more when I try my best line: ‘Hi ya chuck, ow arh ya doin’, laughs turn into complete hysterics!
‘Flaming Nora’ I say, I am trying to learn English here!