‘Bright Star, would I were as steadfast as thou art’ – New Head of English and his love for the English Language
Alexander Clevewood is the new Head of English at London Waterloo Academy. His polyglot tongue and calloused writer hands churn out poetry and prose in English, Italian, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Portuguese. A British citizen raised by a British mother and a Chinese father, his multicultural heart is scattered in the UK, Italy, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the US.)
Sweetly enamoured, smoothly seduced. A concoction of melancholy for the English of a bygone era, contrasting my untempered excitement for new linguistic trends that are contemporaneously engulfing the globe. My love for English is, as Burns would have put it so eloquently, ‘like a red, red rose, that’s newly sprung in June’.
Born and raised in a multilingual and multicultural environment, my unpresentable trotters and hooves have taken me to exotic lands of the Far East, imbued with Oriental mystique; to the brazen Outback of the rolling, scorching dunes of darkest Australia; to the myriads of enticing food trucks of the Big Apple, where getting ‘on line’ is nothing out of the ordinary. My travails, on the surface varied and unrelated, are united by one defining purpose: to discover the wonders of the world via language learning.
English is often lauded as the language of commerce, education, and science. More seldom has it been known as the tongue of Shakespeare, Milton, and Keats. Instead of a technical code whereupon – pardon the colloquialism – we can get the job done, it is a stunning creation by humankind. Accustomed to being rolled off the tongues of Western poets and playwrights, it becomes the canvas whereupon reflections of oppressed colonial peoples are crafted in such elegance and dignity. It becomes the melody that voices the abject suffering of fleeing refugees and sobbing working class.
Now the world’s most spoken language, different forms of English are spoken daily. Every English variety is important in its own right, as it tells the story of a certain country, race, and creed. ‘Chur’ in New Zealand may be an expression of gratitude. In Hong Kong English, it means hardworking or diligent. ‘Good shot’ may be an allusion to the British aristocracy, an echo to its ineffable fascination towards fox-hunting. In America, it is an oft-heard phrase in soccer pitches as an expression of camaraderie. English is a story. English is a melody. English is an art.
Teaching and chanting the beauty of English, subject to Keats’ magnanimity, allows me to ‘hear her tender-taken breath, and so live ever – or else swoon to death’.
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