Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Wow, it's been a long time since I had such a beginner. I started an intensive with a, I want to say kid but he's 22, student from out in the country who is taking a marketing program that includes language study. I asked if there had been any previous English in school and the response was (in French) "I cheated and the teacher was bad." I think that out in rural areas, English isn't seen as a necessity and so isn't given the same weight in many cases. But the last time I had someone this low, it was a kid from Saudi Arabia who knew only no, yes and thank you when I got him. His father brokered those lessons with me on the phone from the home country. What was his name, oh yes Mutlag, the "g" pronounced like when saying the "ch" in yech. I remember going to his apartment, sometimes accidentally arriving at prayer time, in which case I would wait at the little dining table. The oddest thing about him was that there was always water all over the bathroom. It was like he took a bath and splashed it out all over the floor and walls. I asked his roommate, another kid and student of mine from Saudi Arabia, why the bathroom was like that and he just shrugged. Once he took a one hour shower while I gave a lesson to his roommate, Abadi, and though I didn't say anything, I had a feeling I knew what was going on. Once when the word "Hitler" came up, they didn't understand and I did the Heil Hitler thing with the little mustache and the light bulb when off next to their heads, "Ohhhhhh Hitler, he hero, he hero!" Of course I went right onto something else, they couldn't understand anything I said anyway, and I wasn't going to change 20 years of brainwashing. I was glad when I finished with them. So this new student is a challenge for me. I hope we have enough time together for me to see a flowering of his ability. I'm much more likely to get that from the super-beginners, though Mutlag and Abadi never did. He did make a whole present tense sentence with the verb "be" on his own today. That is progress. My work is to be patient and repetetive, repetetive and patient. It's tempting for both of us to jump into French to explain or ask questions, but the best for both of us is to refrain from that. We both failed at it a few times, but today I'm going Nazi on him.