Leslie Greer led a very different life from the other participants in this project. In this extract she talks about her working life teaching English as a foreign language all around the world. She talks about living and working in Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Israel, Iran and London.

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What did you do after the war?

Well after the war… I put in for a job of talking to prisoners of war in German but I didn’t get that job… however, I got a job in India for no good reason at all that I could see, however, that didn’t last for very long because my sister, my brother and I, we all went out to the Far East and the poor Japs were so frightened by that they gave up and so that was the end of the Japanese war and then… after a bit I got into what was known as the Control Commission which was in Germany or Austria, a lot of my former colleagues wanted to in Austria but I didn’t, I wanted to be in Germany and I was in Germany for about ten years I think and there I was in Cologne and Dusseldorf and Essen and Freiburg… Freiburg was very nice because I was sort of to work together with the Freiburg University there and you know in Britain they would send out distinguished people to, well, to talk about this and that at Freiburg University and I would sometimes have to go and ask them ‘well professor is going to come to Germany to give talks, would you like him to come here to Freiburg?’ and sometimes they said yes and sometimes they said no but that was quite a nice sort of job because I had quite a lot to do with the university and people there were nice and I did a certain amount of liaison with German teachers of English and I don’t know, it sounds quite short put like that but it did last for about ten years.

Did you come back to Ireland then or did you go back to England after that?

No, I didn’t come back to… I never worked in Ireland except for the time in Belfast at the beginning… no, after that they asked me what I wanted to do… oh yes, after that the… I was asked what I would like to do and the people who interviewed me decided that it might be a good idea if I learnt officially how to teach English as a foreign language and so they sent me for a year to London University which was quite fun because by that time I was, I think, well into my forties and some of the other people who were also doing this course, it was a year’s course, they’d only just finished their degree but they were very nice, they didn’t… there were two of us who were much older than the others but they went on as if we were not too aged and hopeless! And then just when I’d got to the end of this course I got a letter from, I forget who it was from, I forget who it was from, saying ‘would you like a job in Brazil?’ and so I borrowed money for a stamp because I didn’t happen to have a stamp on me and I said ‘yes please’. So that was rather nice and interesting…

What did you do in Brazil?

In Brazil? Well again I was mixed up with teaching English as a foreign language, I did a good deal of that afterwards, you see, and I’m glad to say I didn’t have to teach children…

Just adults.

… because teaching children is very difficult and adults are much better because they want to learn, at least the ones I met did so I was then in Brazil most of the time teaching English as a foreign language and then I think I was for two or three years and I have a feeling that people forgot about me, forgot that I was there but my mother was still alive at this time and I had told her I wasn’t going to go away forever so after I’d been there about three years I told them ‘I’d better come back now’ so I did go back to England… but in a fairly short time I was out in South America again in that small country between Brazil and Argentina, can you remember what it is?

Uruguay is it?

Uruguay, yes. And Uruguay, they were wonderful people because although some of them had been in England or America and many of them hadn’t, they learned English so well, they spoke it so well, much better than French! So I was in Uruguay for about two or three years I was there and then later on I was in Israel which I didn’t care for very much… I was very careful in Israel not to learn Hebrew because there weren’t many people who spoke Hebrew and I felt there was a great danger that if I knew Hebrew they’d send me back there, a lot of this time that I was moving from one country to the other was for the British Council, you know the British Council’s job is to make Britain loved and wanted… so I was there and then I was in Iran for a time but not very long because it was just about the time when everything went horribly wrong.

The revolution…

Yeah. So a couple of times in between these places I’d been I was in London at the headquarters of the British Council so that’s… you say, have I worked? The answer’s yes!


11:50.7 - 22:17.4

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Dublin City Life, Work and Family, Work



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"Leslie Greer talks about her career teaching English as a foreign language all around the world.." Lifescapes: Mapping Dublin Lives, Item #168 (accessed February 23 2018, 4:52 am)