​Bear or Beer?

When I arrived in England, I couldn't speak a word of English, so I decided to take some lessons.

My teacher told us that we should be careful as in many ways English was a confusing language. Many a trap lies waiting for the unsuspecting student. At first, I took his advice with a pinch of salt, but I was soon to learn by bitter experience.

I remember, only too well, an evening I spent in a local pub. I went there three or four times a week and had communicated with the barman by means of sign language. One evening, I took the bull by the horns and decided to speak. I took a deep breath and ordered as dearly as I could: "A bear, please."

The barman couldn't believe his ears. He hesitated for a moment and then answered: "Listen to me, young man. You are in a pub not at the zoo!" I didn't understand him but realized from his voice that he was none too pleased. I would have gone without my beer that evening if a kind Englishman hadn't intervened. He took me by the arm and led me to his table. Over a drink he explained my silly mistake. He was very friendly and helped, but talked very quickly.

After a few drinks he became very patriotic and talked about the Queen and the Monarchy. I didn't understand half of what he said but nodded sympathetically from time to time.

Soon I began to feel a little tipsy and thought that this was a good opportunity to practise my English. "God, shave the Queen'" I exclaimed. There was a dead silence. Then he began to go pale. He stood up, looked me up and down and then turned round sharply and walked away leaving me with my mouth hanging open and my glass hanging in the air. "See you tomorrow", I said weakly. But he had gone. I still feel miserable when I think of that day and know that my teacher was right and I was altogether wrong.

From "BBC: Learn English"

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