Thursday, 24 March 2011

An Invitation

On my return to England in 2005 I saw for the first time how very attached overseas students have become to those little electronic dictionaries. Up to then, I had been used to trying to stop students rifling through matchbox-size 'Little Gem' dictionaries in the vain hope of finding the likes of 'flocculent' or 'indigitate' or 'prognathous', and then pronouncing the word non-existent. Nowadays you can get dictionaries with 24,000 headwords on a ghizmo no bigger than a quaint old pocket dictionary, and since it has a keypad and screen, it exerts the same fascination over users as do computers and mobile phones. Students place their e-dictionaries open in front of them on the desk as an earnest of their earnestness, and are forever stabbing at the bloody things. In my lessons they are now strengst verboten, unless I give express permission for their principled use.

Even though colleagues and I spend ages instructing students on the correct use of the dictionary, when they go home they revert to type and, lacking an English word they need for an essay, they key the Arabic equivalent into their electronic dictionary, come up with ten or so English words and go for the one at the head of the list. This might be the right word, or - fuck it - might not, but the teacher gets paid to alter it if necessary, so why sweat?

Group C, whose company I enjoy twice weekly, are practising writing reports. These are trifling 200 word affairs, but with an introduction, conclusion and three or so intervening sections with headings. The students are organising written language for the first time, and you would think I was requiring them to plait sawdust, such is the helplessness many of them evince when faced with the task. Today they had to imagine that they had been requested... ('it means asked politely, put the dictionary away, I'm explaining the word, dammit, and you aren't listening') ...been requested to write a report for a school in another country on the teaching and facilities in our centre. With, help of his dictionary, Abdulgader came up with this pronouncement on the teaching:

'Teachers felt lacks student'

No matter how I tried to lasso the words together, I couldn't parse it. I don't feel I lack students (not until after Easter, anyway) nor do I possess any studentless thing made of felt: an untenanted yurt, perhaps. So I had to ask Abdulgader to paraphrase, and it turned out this was a valiant effort to convey his meaning. So I am going to leave it open for the interpretation of ye who read this. Post your suggestion below, and a winning entry will earn you the warm glow of knowing you were right.


Nik_TheGreek said...

I'm trying to think of something... It's not very easy...
How about something:
"Teachers can't understand the students"

Vilges Suola said...

Well, close-ish, but 'a miss is as good as a mile', που λένε.

Cat said...

How about, "Teachers understand the students' areas of weakness"?

Rob said...

I reckon: "Teachers understood student needs" or "Teachers understood what students wanted".

Or possibly it's more of a spelling thing: "Teachers failed lax students". But why say that?

You should have more quizzes.

Diarmuid said...

Could it be that "teachers feel like students lackeys"? That's often the case anyway. Perhaps he was a perceptive sort?

Vera said...

Teachers feel (know) what the students are lacking
Teachers feel that the students are lacking
Teachers lack feeling for the students


Mediterranean kiwi said...

when i see students using a dictionary to look up a word while we're doing a class exercise, i feel sorry for them because they are usually the class of students who will end up retaking the TOEFL test until they manage to get a passing grade in it

Vilges Suola said...

I'm just irritated by the self-defeating nature of the action: I'm contextualising, explaining and exemplifying and the bloody student isn't listening - just getting a load of misinformation from the dictionary.


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