A bustling street market, like Portobello Road, is stressful enough as it is. With its throngs of people, shoulder to shoulder and cheek by jowl, rushing here and there searching for the best deal they can find; vendors shouting bloody murder above the fray; and street performers jostling for space to pluck their guitars and re-apply their face paint. Imagine if your English teacher, in the middle of this colourful circus at Portobello Market, gave you a homework assignment to do as well. Imagine, too, if he were there to mark it while you did it.
This would have been a challenge for anybody, but in a second (or third) language it was absolutely fiendish. Our students soldiered on, though, searching high and low and speaking to everyone, practising their gerunds, conditionals, and new market vocabulary on anyone who would listen. Through the world famous antiques market, the smorgasbord of fresh fruit and veg, and mountains of handmade trinkets and bric-a-brac they rambled, dutiful students that they are, to complete their four language challenges.
On a sunny, Saturday morning students from Ingla experienced just this. After making the trek from Turnpike Lane to West London, they were set loose on Portobello Road Market, at its buzzing peak, with nothing but their guile and a handful of language challenges to guide them. They had to 1. Haggle with a vendor to lower the price of an item, 2. Find a vendor who had worked at the market for more than twenty years, 3. Find something that was handmade in Britain, and 4. Compliment someone in the market on their purchase and find out where they had bought it.
A great day in one of London’s most iconic markets was capped off with a delicious brunch of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon in one of Portobello’s many great cafes. Many of Ingla’s students left saying they’d be back soon, but I’m sure they’ll never look at a street market the same way again.