07 July 2011

English Is a Shirt: Iron It!

From a previous life. Intended for ESL students. Part two of a trilogy.

We all know the world is getting warmer and warmer. We drive in cars, we eat tasty hamburgers, we go to Julia Roberts movies. All the while, the big pieces of ice that cover the North and South Poles are getting smaller and smaller. They are melting.

Global warming will give us some problems. Every time you turn on the TV, Bangladeshis will be crying. The oceans will get higher, and we will have more floods and heat waves, typhoons and hurricanes. While this is happening, remember one important thing—you need a clean and wrinkle-free shirt.

The English language is that shirt. Think about it: when you are ironing it, you can whistle a happy tune. Everything is right in the world. English is the same: when you are learning it, your worry about other things flies away.

Ironing shirts is complicated, and English is complicated, too. On a shirt, you have to be careful around the buttons. They require skill. English grammar is just like that. Once, at a party, I tried to use the simple past (I ate a pickle) but instead used the future perfect progressive (I will have been eating a pickle). What a mistake! Everyone looked at me with hard eyes. But when they did, all they saw was my great-looking shirt—and they smiled.

Global warming is beyond your control. Can you reduce how much garbage you produce or pollution you create? No one can. Instead, worry about the things you can improve: your shirt and your English. The United Nations will do the rest. 

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