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How bedrooms there many are? 0

Dear Bradshaw,

Though she speaks Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, 56-year-old Maria is having a hard time adding English to the list. Granted, she’s a beginner, but the logic and simplicity of the language seems to elude her.

As homework last week she had to write, “Do you like…” followed by a word from the box, and then answer either Yes, I do or No, I don’t. Maria’s homework looked like this:

1. Do you like television?

Yes, of relax.


2. Do you like ice cream?

Yes, very good.


3. Do you like chips?

No, not’s it.


4. Do you number mobile phones?

No, I have forget.


5. Do you laike pop music?

No, like music classic.


6. Do you google?

ho is, important.


Having corrected the above homework, I knew what to expect during our lesson today when Maria had to put words in the correct order to make questions: many / How / are / bedrooms / there / ?

“How are…?” Maria began.

“No,” I said.

“How are…?” she repeated.

“No, not How are.”

“How there…?”


“How are…?”

“No. It’s not How are or How there.”

“How there…?”

“No. Not How there.”

“How bedrooms…?”


“How are…?”

“No. It’s absolutely definitely not How are.”

Madonna mia,” she said.

“You can do it,” I said, speaking very slowly. “Try a different combination.”

Maria grabbed her pen and tried writing her response: There are many…

Of course, I’d been hoping she’d try each word in turn until she arrived at ‘How many’ but seeing that wasn’t going to happen before I changed my name to St. Nicholas I gave her a hint, “How many?

“How many…?”


“How there are…?”

“No. How many?

“How many there are…?”

“No. How many?”

“How there bedrooms…?”

“No no. Listen to me. How many?

“How bedrooms there many are?”

Oh, well, whatever, right? Maria’s a sweet woman. She’s had forty lessons with our school and only three with me. I work mornings and Maria usually comes in the evenings. So I like to think I’m off the hook. Anyway, Shaw. Dollar another, another day. Oops! I mean: Another day, another dollar.

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