Friday, January 19, 2007

Hey Teacher...thanks!

I remembered to pay homage to my English teachers over the years. After all, if it wasn't for them, I probably wouldn't be here today writing a blog in English and getting to know all of you. Well, I could be but I'm sure they provided me an important support in my language skills.

My first english teacher was an old lady. She was very strict and demanding of her 10-year-old pupils and everyone was terrified of her. But that was extremely important to help us learn the basics of a new language. When she arrived in the classroom, she would always write the summary with an instrument that held the chalk, so she didn't get chalk in her hands and the summaries were always similar "reading comprehension", "vocabulary & grammar" ...which were tough terms to write when you didn't know a word of english. I think she made us read the summary out loud too, and everyone made fun of the way she said sUMMAry, like she was late to catch a train. She always made us copy and translate texts for homework, which I'm sure was also very useful for our learning and the next day she'd correct the homework asking us difficult questions desk by desk: how to conjugate the verbs, interpretation questions...she was tough! She had the habit of twisting her tongue and biting it, which made her look like a snake and she always said things like: "your parents spend rivers of money (a portuguese expression!) to send you to this school and you don't learn a single thing" and how her dream was to "go to the Bahamas and put my cheeks under the sun" - it was hilarious and I never forgotten it. We also sang a lot of songs that came with the tapes and the english book and she used to sing along and wiggle her head.

Two years after that, I had a new teacher. She was much younger but still demanding. Every Monday or so we had a verbs test, to learn the irregular verbs in english. Don't remember much about her, I'm not even sure how long she stayed there, if a year or two.

Next I had another tough one: this one had really straight short black hair and a face that resembled a bird. I remember trying to impress her in a debate we were having in class. I watched a lot of MTV back then and I just put together a bunch of sentences that stuck in my head, about how people worked out to feel good about themselves. It was easy. She also used to say, when our things were messy, that they looked like they had come from the Bangladesh war. I don't know why she obsessed about this particular war.

In secondary school I had two more teachers. One didn't teach english in particular, but translation techniques, which was a very stupid subject. This teacher really loved me and once she offered to lend me a Beatles CD because she knew I liked their music. The classes were really boring, especially when the subject was translation theories...The rest was translating texts, studying "false-friends", idiomatic expressions, etc. I remember one afternoon we all sang Imagine by John Lennon. I'm not sure there was a tape playing or if we were singing a cappella, I do remember we were completely out of tune!!

My final teacher taught me english for my last three years of school. I didn't really like her in the 1st couple of years, she wasn't very nice and the lessons were really boring. But then her un-niceness became charming because she couldn't stop being sarcastic and funny about everything. I'm sure I wouldn't like her if I had trouble with english, but she didn't pick on me so much...except when she wanted someone to read, it was me most of time. She once made fun of me because I wore dozens of pins holding my hair - she called me and my friend the pins club or something like that.

That last year of English was a great learning experience because we studied the american and british culture, the cold war, the Thatcher years, the history of music from the blues to pop...we watched films and listened to songs and with her sarcastic remarks I think I learnt a lot.


holy chaos said...

I really wish I had the training that you had in English in other languages... i wonder if it is too late for me now... I have heard that only the very young can learn a new language... maybe not because I know a lady from Russia who came here when she was in her 30's.

your post made me think of a great book called "Thank you, Mr. Faulker" by Patricia Pollaco. It is a children's book that is wonderful!

Ps said...

When English isn't your mother tongue, nor the native language of your country,yet, when you can communicate so well in it, then you really have to thank your English teachers.Your post made me remember all of mine.My love for this language made me read almost anything I could lay my hands on..And here I am,blogging in English and interacting with so many from so many countries.I'm so much richer for the experience.

Devil Mood said...

Holychaos: They say it gets harder because when you're young there's a greater "elasticity" in our brains to learn different grammar and vocabulary. Little kids can learn easily two languages at the same time. But it's certainly not impossible, so if you want it, you should try :)

PS: That's great! I'm glad you could connect to my experience. English certainly opens a lot of possibilities.

Vesper said...

i enjoyed reading about your english teachers!

[eric] said...

Holy Chaos's comment reminds me of a story I read in USA Today: Parents are teaching their kids multiple languages in addition to their own so that they are more equipped in the global world. There was one 5-year-old girl who was fluent in Japanese, Italian, and French, plus she was learning Spanish and Chinese as well!

kimananda said...

What a great tribute. I wonder how your teachers thought their students thought about them, like if the strict ones were trying to be strict, for instance.

And my last e-mail wasn't complex, it was stream-of-conscience. When I'm writing a paper, I have the idea that everything I write sounds like an academic thesis. I'm not sure I'd answer it either! Though I would still love to hear what about your chart would explain your blog. :-)

Devil Mood said...

Eric: They always interview the extreme cases: that one seemed like too much for a little girl, poor her! But it's a good idea to teach them a second language, for example.

Kim: No, I really want to answer it, but I've been to lazy to ponder on that subject! Funnily enough, I met that 1st teacher socially 5 or 6 years later and she was an adorable person and she loved me as well. lol Her methods were strict but very efficient!

Chloe said...

i used to be an english teacher. i wish someday one of my students writes 2 sentences about me (preferably in english).

Devil Mood said...

Chloe, I'm sure they'll have BOOKS in RNGLISH talking about you ;) Who wouldn't?