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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 6; Issue 2; March 04


A "third Conditional" Joke
The American Golfer

secondary and adult

Adrian Birtwhistle, Spain

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There was a wealthy American executive who had practically everything in life a successful business and a Californian ranch-style home as well as plenty of money, in fact almost everything money can buy. But in spite of his financial and social success he felt that he was a failure when it came to playing a game of golf such an important pastime in the business world.

So one fine day, he decided to spend some time in Scotland and try and improve his hand at the game. He arrived in Saint Andrews, where golf had been invented, booked into the most exclusive hotel in the town and hired a local golf coach, a shrewd, wiry Scottish golf professional.

After resting at his hotel to get over his jet lag, the American was ready for his first lesson. It was a pleasant sunny day, a very rare event in Scotland, and the American was dressed for the occasion. He looked a sight in his Bermuda shorts and colourful Hawaiian summer shirt which scarcely hid his bulging stomach, while the Scottish coach, as thin as a rake, was dressed more soberly in a tweed jacket and plus fours.

At the first tee, the Scotsman tried to explain how to hold the golf club properly so as to hit the ball in the right direction. "Weel, ye put yourr rright foot in frront of yourr left foot, and yourr rright hand in front of yourr left hand on the club like this, and ye swing the club frrom rright to left, like this." The golf instructor wanted to demonstrate the swing before letting his student practise, but the American was too impatient and wanted to have a go right away. He grabbed the golf club and hit the ball with all his might as well as sending clods of earth and grass flying all over the place.

Unfortunately, the American hadn't understood the Scotsman's instructions, probably because of his very strong accent, and did the complete opposite of what he should have done, sending the ball in the wrong direction.

As the two men watched, the ball flew high over the green and started to fall, ever so slowly, it seemed, in the direction of a busy main road next to the golf course. They could see a cyclist, pedalling slowly and laboriously along, suddenly fall off his bicycle into the path of an oncoming car which violently swerved in a desperate attempt to avoid him and went out of control. It crashed into the back of a petrol tanker which immediately burst into flames and also set fire to a bus right in front of it. With a squealing of brakes and the horrifying sound of metal crashing against metal, more and more cars and lorries collided into the burning tanker and burst into flames, sending smoke hundreds of feet into the air.

To make things worse, a jumbo jet coming in to land at the nearby airport, flew over the golf course into the smoke and flames caused by the accident, went out of control and crashed into a field in a ball of fire.

The two men had been watching the terrible tragedy in dumbstruck silence and dismay. At last the American covered his eyes with his hands and cried out, "Oh ma Gaad, what have I done?!"

The Scotsman said calmly but curtly, "Weel, if ye had put yourr rright foot in frront of yourr left foot, and yourr rright hand in front of yourr left hand on the club as I told ye to, this would neverr have happened!"

After telling this story, the teacher could use the contents of the story to make up a "drill" to practise using the third conditional:

Teacher- The accident happened because the American hit the ball in the wrong direction
. If the American had hit the ball correctly, the accident.................

Students- the accident wouldn't have happened.
Teacher- Unfortunately the American hit the ball in the wrong direction and it hit a passing cyclist in the eye.
If the American hadn't hit the ball in the wrong direction, it..............

Students- .....it wouldn't have hit the cyclist in the eye.
Teacher- Very unfortunately, the ball hit the cyclist in the eye and he fell off his bicycle. If the ball..........
Students- If the ball hadn't hit the cyclist in the eye, he wouldn't have fallen off his bike.
Teacher- I'm very sad to say that the cyclist fell off his bicycle and as a consequence, an oncoming car crashed into a petrol tanker whilst trying to avoid him.
If the cyclist................................, the car...............

Students- If the cyclist hadn't fallen off his bike, the car wouldn't have crashed into the petrol tanker.

Teacher- I'm terribly sorry to say that after the car hit the petrol tanker, the lorry burst into flames.

Students- If the car hadn't hit the petrol tanker, it wouldn't have burst into flames.

And so on. At this stage, the students could make up their own sentences based on the story and using the third conditional.

I wish + conditional
The Old Woman's Three Wishes

Secondary and adult

Adrian Birtwhistle, Spain

Once upon a time, in fact not so very long ago, there was an old woman who lived by herself all alone in a little cottage in the middle of the countryside. She had been a kind person all her life, helping other people and bringing up her children, but now, coming towards the end of her life she was all alone. Her children had left her and had settled down in the big city and were too busy with their jobs and their own families to bother to visit her. She had very few neighbours who lived far from her little cottage and the only friend she had was a tom cat that kept her company. She was very lonely but she was very philososophical about things and carried on living on her own as best as she could.

Then one cold, rainy day, her fairy godmother suddenly appeared in a flash of light while she was sitting by the fireplace (she was too poor even to afford a TV set). The poor old lady was quite startled and she almost jumped out of her rocking chair, but her fairy godmother calmed her down and reassured her gently.

"You don't know me, but I'm your fairy godmother and I've been keeping an eye on you all your life. I know you've had a hard life and even so, you've been so kind and generous to everybody you sacrificed the best years of your life to bring up your children and now they're so selfish and ungrateful that they don't even bother to see you. I know that you've helped everybody you've come across and nobody has ever returned your kindness. Life has been so unfair to you and you've been so good and kind that I've asked Heaven to give you a second chance in this world. So here I am I've got permission from Heaven to grant you three wishes. You can ask for anything you want and you'll get it. Take your time and think about what you really want to have tell me your three wishes and they'll come true."

"Oh dear," she said, "What a surprise. I never expected this to happen. Can I really ask for anything I want?"

"Yes," said her fairy godmother, "anything you want."

"Well, you can see I'm so old and frail that I can hardly walk, my face is full of wrinkles and so ugly that nobody even bothers to look at me. I wish ......"

(Here the teacher can elicit "I wish I were young and beautiful" from the students.)

In a flash, she changed into a beautiful young woman with long dark flowing hair. Only her eyes didn't change, they were as kind and friendly as ever.

"You have two wishes left," said the fairy godmother.

"Now I'm young and beautiful," said the transformed old woman, "but I'm still very poor, so I wish ...."

(The students can guess that she would say, "I wish I were rich.")

In a whirlwind, her little old tumbledown cottage was swept away, and where it once stood there was an elegant mansion with a stately garden and a heart-shaped swimming pool. Two Rolls Royces were parked in the drive. The mansion was the perfect replica of an eighteenth century stately home but with the latest mod cons and technology discreetly installed a fast connection to internet in every room, central heating and air conditioning, a jacuzzi and sauna in every bathroom... The kitchens were stocked with all kinds of exotic food and high quality wines, and in case the stock market crashed the was plenty of gold stored in an underground safe.

"You have one more wish left," said the fairy godmother, bringing the woman out of a daze.

"Let me think," she said, "All my life I've been poor, and since my husband died and my children left me I've been used to living on my own. Now, I've suddenly become young and beautiful and very rich. No doubt lots of people, especially young men looking for an easy life will run after me, but will I have any real friends? Who has been kind to me and kept me company all these years? Jimmy my dear tom cat! I'll give my last wish to him, for he's been the only true friend I've had these last few years. I wish...

(The students can guess that she would say, "I wish my cat were a man/human.")

In yet another blinding flash of light, the faithful old tom cat changed into a handsome young man. They looked at each other, smiled and kissed.

"Now that you've had your wishes granted," said the fairy godmother, "may you both live happily ever after" and disappeared as suddenly as she had appeared.

The young couple were delighted at their unexpected change in fortune and spent the rest of the day wandering around the mansion and garden, having a swim in the heart-shaped swimming pool, and having a delicious lunch. In the afternoon they went for a drive in their Rolls Royce and all the while they talked about their new life and future plans.

But as the afternoon gradually turned to evening, she noticed that Jimmy seemed to be getting more and more silent and pensive, and as night came he became very sad and depressed.

"What's the matter, Jimmy?" asked the woman, "We have everything in life, you were kind to me when I was an ugly old woman and you were a cat and now we can live together and love each other for the rest of our lives."

"Yes, but do you remember when I was a little kitten I wish you hadn't taken me to the vet!!"

(It may take some time for the punch line to sink in sometimes a few students get the idea and then explain it to the others.)
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