We are a nation of devoted animal lovers. And one of the biggest animal lovers of all is our monarch.
The Queen is mad about Corgis (short-legged, friendly dogs) and is often photographed with them. When her oldest dog, Monty, died it made headlines in all the newspapers. Sometimes, statistics don’t lie. More than 50 per cent of British families own a pet and there are about 8.6 million cats and 8.3 million dogs in the UK. The nation’s living rooms are home to 1 million plus budgerigars and about 18 million goldfish. And don’t forget the armies of hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, mice, rats and weasels – among others. It has even been suggested that some British people are more attached to their pets than their children, but that can’t be true. Can it?
We, from IDEAL-courses in Brighton/UK, would like to hear from you what the situation is like in your country. Please let us know. It might be that many British people form a deep relationship with their pets because they are much easier to talk to than other people – particularly British people. A Labrador is not at all reserved and does not expect you to respect his or her personal space. He will not recoil in horror if you touch him on the shoulder or shout at him. In a country where human contact is not always easy, the unconditional love of a Burmese cat or a Highland terrier is valued deeply.
When a dog owner gets on a train with his four-legged companion, most of the fellow passengers feel relieved because they have finally got something to look at and talk about. Having a dog is a perfect ice-breaker when meeting a stranger: “How lovely! How long have you had him? He looks quite frisky, doesn’t he?”
The list of questions and remarks could go on forever! Endless conversations normally follow and passionate promises are often made: “We must meet up again very soon!” All possible language registers, also of highly charged emotional nature, will be used and exchanged throughout the encounter between a group of people and 1 dog. Who knows when 2 Brits both pat a dog they might even touch!
The other day, I took my dog Otto for a walk along Brighton beach. People with and without dogs kept stopping and asking me why my dog was limping so badly. I had to tell them time and again that, due to his old age, he couldn’t walk, let alone run any more. Most of the grief-stricken people uttered words of comfort and sadness such as: “Poor old boy!” – just to mention a few. A few days later, I found myself hobbling along Brighton beach to get some fresh air – without Otto on my side. A nasty sports injury had injected some pain into my right thigh so that I couldn’t walk properly. Superfluous to mention that nobody paid any attention to my slightly miserable mobile state.
We, from IDEAL-courses in Brighton/UK, put utmost emphasis on both the linguistic and cultural/social experiences that our clients from all over the world gather and implement during their English Language course in Brighton. If you happen to be one of our happy IDEAL-clients, you will certainly be asked one afternoon to take my dog Otto for a walk along Brighton beach. You will be facing very effective practical speaking and listening sessions with very friendly British people from all walks of life. See you soon!