10 junio 2015

Words They Say

First published 9 June 2015 @ sólo algunas palabras

Based on a True Story

    “Good morning, children.”
    — Gutmonin.
    “Today, we are gonna talk about Hallowe’en.”
    — Helluin!

Well it was clear from the very start that these children don’t want to talk. They want to shout. But I have a secret weapon: colouring pages. Hallowe’en-themed, as it were.

    — Quiero una araña.
    — Quiero un murciélago.
    — Quiero una calabaza.
    “No, no, no.”
    — ¡Araña!
    “Here’s the deal: you have to speak in English to me.”
    — Quiero...
    No quiero. This is a spider. This is a pumpkin. This is a bat. All right?”
    — ¡Bat! ¡Bat!
    — ¡Batman!
    “Not Batman. A bat.”
    — ¡Espayder!
    “No ‘Espayder’. Spider. Spy-Der. Spider.”
    — ¡Espayder!
    “Spider.”
    — Quiero spider.
    No quiero. ‘Can I have...’”
    Quen ay jav...
    “‘...a spider’.”
    — ¡Espayder!

What did I get myself into? Can anybody hear the difference between ‘a spider’ and, well, ‘espayder’?

    — Quiero bat.
    — Quiero espayder.
    — Quiero los todos.
    — Quiero pis.
    “Please go.”

The colouring pages are finally distributed.

    — ¿Puedo colorear?
    — ¿Puedo recortar?

Mind you, only the most polite ask this. The others have already taken hold of the crayons, felt-tip pens and scissors.

There is a pair of kids who never do what I ask. Instead of colouring, they cut things out, or glue the worksheets to the walls. One of the favourite activities is to cut out something (say, a bat) and stick it to the blank A4 paper sheet. Fifteen minutes later, the result is exactly the same as the original worksheet but a lot more crumpled and covered with glue and some unidentified dirt on both sides.

The others really like colouring and showing me their work.

    — Mira, que bonito. (About their own pictures.)
    — Mira, que feo. (About the neighbour’s work.)
    — Mira, que botas muy chulas. (Points on her welly boots.)
    — Tengo mocos.

My very first day in this class, one three-year old girl was looking at me intently for about twenty minutes. Then she said, very seriously:

    — Eres guapo.
Later that month, we did some sort of Hallowe’en presentation, where I was supposed to be a vampire. I was dressed in black, had a (mostly white) face paint and a grey hair wig. Most of three- and four-year-olds were scared of me, which I judged to be a success. Not this girl though. She came close and asked me:
    — ¿Quién eres?
    “I am, er, a vampire, don’t you see?”
    — Eres guapo.

Now and then, I show them the videos. Music videos and animations. And now they make requests.

I don’t know how much English they learned from that particular song, but everybody loves it. They crowd around my laptop.
    — ¡No veo!
    — ¡Que no veo!
    — ¡No veo!
    “Guys, can you please step one step back? Then everyone could see.”
    — ¡No veo!
    — Álvaro me ha empujau.
Until I started to work in school, I was convinced that the most popular given names in Spain are Juan and María. Nope. I don’t even have a single María. But there are lots of Álvaros, Brunos, Martinas and Saras.
    — ¡Se ha acabau!
    — ¡Otra!
    — ¡Otra vez!
When I introduced them to Simon’s Cat, they ignored it. At first. Then, about a month later, a request arrived.
    — ¡Un gato chino!
    — “You what?!”
    — ¡Un gato chino!
    — “Do you mean Simon’s Cat?”
    — ¡No, un gato chino!
By now, Simon’s Cat is one of their firm favourites.
    — ¡Se acabó!
    — Es muy corto.
    — ¡Otra!
    — ¡No veo!

There is one five-year old boy who is not interested in anything the others are doing.

    — Estoy aburriendo.
    — Estoy aburrido.
    — Quiero algo divertido.
    — Quiero algo volando.
I like it when they give me clues what to do next.

    “Good morning, children.”
    — Gutmonin!
I point at the blackboard where I did stick seven A4 paper sheets evolving towards a flying machine.
    “Today, we are going to make a paper airplane.”

How to make a paper airplane: steps 1 through 7

I find all twelve of them standing under number 7.

    — ¡Quiero eso!
    — ¡Quiero un avión de papel!
    “No, no, no. We all are going to learn how to make a paper airplane. Everybody take a sheet of paper...”
And so it starts.
    “...and fold it like this...”
    — ¿Me ayudas?
    — ¿Me lo doblas?
    — ¿Me lo haces?
And this is just a half of the class. There is no way I am making 25 paper airplanes in one hour.

That was a stroke of genius, I admit it freely. Seven months later, only a handful of them learned this craft. But it provided me with another weapon.

    — ¡Quiero un avión de papel!
    “In English, please.”
    — Es que no sé como decir.
    “Ask Hugo, he knows.”
A minute later:
    — ¡Plan! ¡Plan!
    “What plan?”
    — ¡Plane!
    “Plane what?”
    — ¡Quiero a plane!
    No quiero. ‘Can you make...’”
    — ¡A plane!
    — ¡A plane!
    — ¡A plane!
Now the teachers tell me: you know, your planes fly really far! Yes, I know.

They do ask lots of questions, these kids. Mostly in Spanish.

    — ¿Tienes novia?
    — ¿Tienes bebés?
    — ¿Por qué no hablas español?
    — ¿Por qué llevas coleta?
    — ¿Por qué andas en chanclas?
    — ¿Cuántos minutos faltan? (Till the end of the class, that is.)
    Can I go to the toilet please?
Wow.

Apart from teaching in a classroom, I take turns to supervise them during the recess. Or before. Or after.

    “Can you please put on your coats.”
    — ¡Has dicho una palabrota!
    “Did I?”
    — ¡Has dicho ‘puta’!
Oh my. I have to be careful with these things.

To be fair, very few of them hesitate to use swearwords, especially in my class. In the beginning, they did not realise I know all this lexicon.

    — Álvaro me ha empujau.
    “Oh no, not him again.”
    — ¿Puedes guardarlo? (Gives me a toy.)
    “Claro que sí — oops, yes of course.”
    — ¿Puedes atar mis cordones?
    “Sure I can. And a magic word?”
    — ¡Fuerte!

By midday, they drain all my energy. But sometimes they ask or tell me something that makes it worth it.

    — ¿Cómo sabes todas estas cosas?
    “Because I was paying attention when in school.” (It’s a lie, I didn’t.)
    — Toma, esto es para ti.
    “It is beautiful, Daniela. Thank you.”
    — Quiero ser tu ayudante.
    “Do you really? Can you help me to tidy up then?”
    — Can you make a plane for me? Please?