British Studies Web Pages
Views of Britain
|Mrs A's Diary|
Mrs. A, English teacher, mother to two demanding teenage children, and wife to an even more demanding husband, is a regular feature of our pages. In this issue, Views of Britain, she uses a lot of visual phrases and figures of speech. . If you need any help understanding these visual expressions in her diary, just place the mouse over the purple ball following an underlined word or phrase.
Looking on the bright side of life
11th February, Monday
First day of school after the winter break. The weather’s looking up but otherwise there’s little prospect of hope. The Head asked me to his office and informed me that a number of teacher training college and university students would be carrying out some surveys for their diploma theses in our school. They will be collecting materials for the topic ‘Inter-cultural awareness among adolescents.’ My class is going to be under scrutiny tomorrow morning. In view of our permanent lack of qualified staff, he suggests I co-operate and show full support. He gave me a meaningful look and added something about ‘for the future well-being of the school’. I get the picture. He thinks that if I’m nice to these diploma students they’ll come back running to teach here. Some chance! The moment they collect their ‘scientific data’ he’ll see the back of them.
12th February, Tuesday morning
The students have arrived, or actually one has: long-legged, blond and very chic; as pretty as a picture, and a real Cindy Crawford look-alike. With such good looks the chances are she’ll run away from teaching as far as she can. When I brought her into the classroom, Krystian stood gawking open-mouthed and the rest of the class stared in awesome silence. I introduced Roxana to the class, (even her name smacks of show-biz), and explained her presence. She asked the class to write the following on little slips of paper:
1) three things, concepts or names which they associate with Britain and
2) one statement about Britain.
‘What means concept?’ asked Luiza, ‘and what’s statement?’ An unpleasant truth was staring me in the face. They can’t even form grammatically correct questions and don’t know some basic vocabulary. I tried to glare at them fiercely, but nobody paid any attention to me. After a while, the Head looked in. Trying to see how the wind blows? He looked Roxana up and down, and although I detest that kind of male sexist behaviour, I didn’t want to make a scene in front of the class.
It took a good twenty minutes to collect the answers. Considering the fact that three pupils were absent, Ernest spent the whole time gazing out of the window, and Dominik, (with two fingers in plaster), couldn’t write, we were lucky to get 15 responses, (of which 3 were blank pages). Roxana offered to photocopy them if I wanted to study the responses in depth, but I decided only to take a peep. I’m not that bothered about keeping a watchful eye on my pupil’s ‘intercultural awareness’. It’s hard enough teaching them the tenses and watching over their manners. But the break was so short I didn’t even manage to glance at what they had written. Fortunately Roxana had photocopied them for me.
I’m reading the answers now. There are twelve; one, a mass of illegible scribble, doesn’t even merit a glimpse. But the others deserve close scrutiny.
I. 1) Harry 2) Potter 3) Harry Potter
Harry Potter is better than Lord of the Rings.
No spelling mistakes, although the factual information is open to debate. Written by someone who still reads, probably Klaudia. She may well have a blind spot about Lord of the Rings.
II. 1) David Beckham 2) Michael Owen 3) red devils
Dudek plays for Liverpool.
Once again, a case of limited scope of vision. Probably written by Tomek.
III. 1) Hju Grant 2) Mrs Been 3) Prince William
Elton John is gay.
Because of Polish phonetic interference I’m almost facing the problem of the use of offensive language. With two letters reversed I’d need to report the case to the Head.
IV. 1) tea 2) with 3) milk
In Scotland men dress skirts.
I’ll have to tell them to look up the difference between ‘dress’ and ‘wear’, and ‘kilts’ and ‘skirts’. This one obviously saw the film Braveheart but must have missed Trainspotting.
V. 1) Naomi Campbell 2) Kate Moss 3) good shops
Clothes are beautiful in England.
Obviously a fashion victim and a weight watcher, probably Daria.
VI. 1) England 2) London 3) Tamiza
Irregular verbs are stupid.
Looking on the bright side, it is a relief they know how to spell ‘irregular’.
VII. 1) Queen 2) left-hand driving 3) rain
The English stole our discovery of Enigma.
Well, before we see out the century there will be more re-writings of history to suffer.
VIII. 1) fish and chips 2) bacon and eggs 3) toast and marmalade
The police are called Scotland Yard.
Written by someone who hadn’t had breakfast. But why the police? Should I start watching my back?
IX. 1) Wilson Cherchil 2) batle of Grate Briten 3) Shekspir
The Englisch sing God save the Qeen and don’t go to cherch.
A serious reader who obviously does not see eye to eye with the English spelling system, and who has some serious gaps in the knowledge of history. Dyslexia?
X. 1) Big Ben 2) Spice Girls 3) Diana
You are ‘niez³a laska’ but I don’t know so much interesting words in English.
Poor Krystian. If only he knew that the word he so desperately needs in his vocabulary is ‘a walking stick’. (I wonder if this is what the British mean by ‘a real looker’. It’s so easy to see through him. Hormones, if you ask me.
XI. 1) red buses 2) Oxford 3) ladies in hats
I want to go to England.
Hmm, I do too.
I was looking at eleven answers thinking: should I be pleased or worried? Is it just a bunch of stereotypes or can we discern any elements of ‘intercultural awareness’? Look at it this way. If someone asked average 13-year-olds in Britain for their associations and statements about Poland, what would they come up with? Would anyone think of Maria Curie or Chopin - hardly Polish names. Perhaps the only name mentioned would be Jerzy Dudek. So that’s our shared Polish-British cultural experience. Although I take a dim view of sociological research carried out in my lessons, I think Roxana’s thesis may be quite useful for studying intercultural awareness among adolescents. And my point of view is to always try to look on the bright side of life.
PS. My diary, as I was looking at my pupils’ answers I felt I was gawping like a ‘wó³ na malowane wrota’ or maybe ‘sroka w gnat’. My linguistic powers fail me again. What are the English equivalents? Why aren’t there in the language of Shakespeare such mind-boggling similes? An ox and a painted gate, a magpie with a dry bone. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I looked at my pupils’ answers again…..
If you are interested in reading about intercultural approaches to teaching English, you can find a selection of articles here.
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