Friday, 26 August 2011

A Littelle Prique



I went down with a bug on Tuesday, a matter of mild fever, aching head, aching eyes and aching joints. I took two days off. I got up at five or so on Wednesday morning for a pee, and between bed and bathroom shivered as if it were January. I felt wretched but then thought 'I can go back to bed!!!' and gratefully did so. Sweats and aches and batty-winged fever-dreams notwithstanding, it was a voluptuous delight to sleep in until seven, and not to have to get the train, and not to have to stand in front of a class. People talk contemptuously of those who 'enjoy ill-health' but sometimes, fuck it, you might as well.

I went in early today, feeling fragile but stir-crazy after 48 hours in the house. I was not in a mood to be messed with, and Cédric, mon pauvre, you ave pique ze rongue faquinne day to play ze smarte-asse.

Now, most students at this stage are unaware that nouns or noun phrases are frequently found at the heads of sentences in academic writing as a way to avoid personal pronouns:

Lots of us think graffiti is a big problem in our city centres.

Graffiti is widely seen as a problem in city centres.

The second sounds more appropriate than the first, and highlighting the use of the passive is especially useful for Chinese students, who tend to come up with stuff like:

Graffiti, it's be big problem in city centre's people.

So the students were given a few sentences to reformulate, and applied themselves with diligence, except for Cédric, who pushed his paper to the edge of the table and flicked through his French-English grammar and phrase book.Link
'We're doing this now,' I said, pushing the paper back under his nose.

'Do we ave to?'

Do we ave to? Do we chuffin rotten ave to? What do you think this is, sunshine, bleedin Summerhill? Would you perhaps prefer to be throwing a pot or feeding the fucking gerbils? OF COURSE YOU...

'Why not?'

'I sink is not useful.'

I got him to admit that he was currently engaged in the writing of an academic essay in English, which is not his native tongue, and rested my case. If, during the reporting back, he felt picked on for every minor error, however smilingly, well, that was because I was smilingly rubbing his pointy gallic nose in it.

Later, he showed me notes from yesterday. Miss Clare ave said that in their introductions to the essay, they could use sequencing words such as first-leigh, zegond-leigh, sird-leigh and so on. Was this in fact the case?

'Yes,' I said. Why would Clare have taken the trouble to impart this information otherwise?

'In French, it is not beautiful.'

'Mais on n'est pas en France,' I said, and explained yet again that the essay is not meant to be a thing of beauty but a bog-standard advantages-disadvantages thing with ideas set out as clearly as possible.

Later, when we turned out to be one task sheet short, I saw him ostentatiously giving away his copy to the young Chinese lady who didn't have one, since he so clearly had no need of it.

Maybe I'm just being paranoid. Scrub that 'maybe' - I'm just being paranoid. If there's a cocky little twerp in a class, I always allow him to make me feel I'm wasting everybody's time.

'Can I ask you a question in Greek?' Voula asked me.

She wanted to know if rhetorial questions were OK in an academic essay. Personally I wouldn't have any problem, but everyone else in our place seems to discourage them, though not with the irrational vigour that some North Americans bring to persecuting the passive, whether or not they actually know what it is. So I said no, avoid them, despite being unconvinced. Then with Hellenic mock-querrulousness, which I do rather well when I'm not actually in Greece, I pointed out that two of the sentences we had fixed up on the board earlier had displayed precisely that defect, if defect it be. She seemed to take me seriously and my mock anger appeared to crush her somewhat.

Shit.

'You sounded quite ill. I'm surprised you're back,' said the administrative assistant.

Yeah - I really should have made it a very long weekend.

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