Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Girly Question

If you don’t teach languages, you may not have heard of the approach to this activity known as ‘dogme’. Put simply, this is a ‘materials light’ approach to language instruction where the topic of the lesson is allowed to arise from the students instead of from some text or unit in a coursebook, and the teacher, leading from behind, decides what language work to slip in and when. It’s ‘lessons from the learner’, and seasoned teachers who are fed up with the dreary predictability of so much published material have been doing it for years. The other day, I let a good opportunity slip by.

How many times have young male students put to me variations on the theme of ‘what kind of girls you like?’ The question usually came from the kind of boys I find rather tiresome; vain young Mediterranean coxcombs, all motorbikes and basketball, convinced of their irresistibility to women. I remember the first time. I was eighteen and ‘working’ as an assistant d’anglais in France. ‘What kind of girls you like?’ a lad in my Saturday morning class asked. He was not a vain young coxcomb, not yet, but a dark-eyed, raven-haired little faun, bung full of testosterone. I was unable to give him an answer, as I had no idea what he meant. Somehow I managed to turn it round and put the question to him. Part of his answer was ‘pas trop fardées’, not too made-up. The fact that I remember his criterion thirty-odd years on suggests that I might have been squirreling away answers to trot out for future occasions. If someone at the time had asked me ‘what kind of boys do you like?’ I would have been equally nonplussed, but if the questioner had persisted and said, ‘come on now, think of so-and-so, and what’s-his-name, and this lithe little spunk-factory here, asking you what kind of girls you like…’ I’d have known what I liked much sooner than I did. Thereafter to the girly question I learned to reply ‘intelligent ones’, which usually shut the questioner up pretty sharpish.

Alexandros in my present group talks a lot about ‘the Greece women’, whom he likes to portray to the Saudi men in the class as permanently gagging for it, in marked contrast with their own invisible and unattainable females. For their part, the Saudi blokes seem to enjoy hearing about ‘the Greece women’, perhaps because they may thereby know arousal and moral superiority at the same time. Alexandros is appalled by the Muslim segregation of the sexes, and often quizzes the other men about it. Sanad is thirty-eight and was married only last year. Lifting a book to cover both their faces, Alexandros rasps in a stage whisper audible rooms away: ‘you no make sex before you are thirty-seven???’

This is the way in Muslim society, Sanad explains, with resigned piety.

‘Βρε, γαμώτο!!!** ' Alex hoots, stage whisper abandoned. 'Thirty-seven! In Cyprus, everybody, FIFTEEN!’

Back to the other day. ‘You like the Greece women?’ Alexandros asked me on my return from Athens. I think he imagines that I maintain my long association with Greece simply because of the nooky he claims is more readily available there. Even thirty-two years after I was first asked the ‘girls’ question, I did not answer truthfully. Had I done so, I would have said:

‘Well actually, Alexandré*, I do like Greek women, but if it’s rumpo we’re on about, and I assume we are, then I have to say that I go exclusively for blokes. I like lean lads up to about thirty, smelling of citrussy perfumes, with a whiff of cigarette smoke and warm male packet. No taller than me, dark hair, dark eyes, a day’s worth of scruff, a dusting of hair on the sternum and a little fleur de lys round each nipple. I like the tactile contrast of smooth buttock and hairy thigh. A sturdy pair of bollocks is always nice to get your hands round, especially if the lad shaves his sack, and although I don’t go for huge dicks, I do find thin ones something of a let-down. Well, that’s me. Have you met anyone nice lately?’

Instead I just muttered ‘yeah’ and changed the subject.

Pity. We could have had a long discussion about sex, morality and religion, leading to a bit of work on modal verbs and a whole swathe of very interesting vocabulary. I would almost certainly have been fired, but answering the girly question truthfully for the first time would have been worth getting the boot for.


A bit of him would do me nicely.

* Vocative form of the name.
**'vre gamoto' = fuckinelle!


Fionnchú said...

As a straight man, I understand where you're, eh, coming from VS, in the abstract! I thought of Dogme as in the film movement, and when I clicked the link to check its derivation, I found this Wiki analogy--and a big "this may be deleted" heading for said article. Maybe textbook conglomerates flagged it for subversion if not perversion.

Doesn't sound that controversial to me, but perhaps vows of chastity in the West or Mediterranean are still?

"The Dogme approach considers that student produced material is preferable to published materials and textbooks, to the extent of inviting teachers to take a ‘vow of chastity’ and not use textbooks.

Vilges Suola said...

Am slighly ashamed to admit that I had not heard of dogme until quite recently. I've never really used it, although I've always encouraged teachers to lead from behind and use coursebooks as a springboard rather than as holy writ.


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