Take vs. Do

A while ago, I emailed Nev (the Metrolingua British English Consultant) to let him know that I was taking German, since he lives in Germany and speaks German a lot better than me (ie, he's fluent, I can barely survive).

I thought what I'd written was clear, but Nev asked me this question: "When you say 'taking German' you mean you're learning it or do you mean you're teaching it?"

Was he serious? He's a native English speaker, from the country where English began, so he should know what "I am taking German" means. But then again, British English has differences, as I've pointed out before. Still, it seemed odd that such a simple sentence would be misunderstood.

So, because of his surprising ignorance of the English language (at least the American version), I asked him what they say in England when they take classes. He told me that they say, "I'm *doing* biology, history, French, etc...plus we'd usually say such and such a teacher is 'taking' that subject."

How can a teacher "take" a subject, unless they're taking a refresher course? But if I were to tell a Brit that a teacher was "taking" a computer course, they'd think I meant that the teacher is teaching computers. That sounds weird: "Professor Smith is taking biology." Sounds like Professor Smith needs some basic tutoring.

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