Friday, March 31, 2006


It has been brought home to me today, rather forcibly impinging itself upon my consciousness in fact, that Friday afternoon is not the most opportune time to be teaching teachers.

I am afraid I lost it.


We were 'doing' prices, to which end I had given them a café style menu with which to practice.

The menu had pictures of all the items on offer and the first task was to match the pictures to the words. One wouldn't have thought that Hamburger & Chips would have caused too much concern but I had reckoned without the headmaster.

"Simon, what does 'chips' mean?"

Oh. My. God.

"Well, how do you say 'hamburger' in Hungarian?"


"And can you see a picture of a hamburger on your menu?"


"And that pile of potatoey things next to it?"


"Okay then. So what's the problem?"

"What does 'chips' mean?"

I had also, to save time and add a touch of verisimilitude, used the ampersand (&) on the menu. I had not gone so far as to use the aberrant apostrophe but even this small touch of shall we say, expediency on my part proved too much for the headmaster's henchman who wanted to know whether or not the '&' was universally interchangeable with 'and'.

Anyway, onwards and upwards.

I gave them 10 minutes to ask each other how much any combination of menu items was and was pleasantly surprised to hear there were very few problems. Minor errors of pronunciation maybe, but this was not the focus so I let them go. I brought the activity to a halt and, rather foolishly I must admit, asked if there were any questions. Cue the Head of Textile Technology.

"Simon, what does 'pound' mean?"

At this point I must confess that it was rather difficult for me to restrain from demonstrating its alternative meaning by repeatedly bringing into close conjunction a hard-back book and the top of her skull but...what?

What is it about a foreign language that drives normally rational and intelligent people to lose all sense of reason and logic? To fail to apply their intelligence to arrive at a reasonable interpretation of a text?

Why is it that when the focus of the next lesson was the Present Simple and they knew the following words, " lives...Australia...small town...Alice Springs...not ordinary doctor...flying doctor", that they couldn't be satisfied with what might be termed a global understanding and had to spend at least 10 minutes in fervent Hungarian discussion of just what the phrase 'in the small town of Alice Springs' might mean? Lack of comprehension? Hardly.

"Where does Bob live?"

"In Australia."

"Where in Australia?"

"In Alice Springs."

"What is Alice Springs?"

"It's a small town."

"So, what's the problem?"

"What does 'in the small town of Alice Springs' mean?"

They crunch me on Fridays.

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