Thursday, 6 September 2012

What They Don't Want You To Know About The Pyramids


Today, students heard a lecture about the pyramids. We marked their notes. Here's some stuff I bet you didn't know. 

'Biggest pyramid was seven miles high.'

Right. That's getting on for three miles higher than Everest. Today in a tutorial, a Chinese student asked me to explain what critical thinking is. Pity I did not have this to hand at the time. 

'Pyramids were banned by biological government.'

Maybe she meant... no, can't be arsed.

'They were built by scrimes and buddows' 

Well, weren't they?

'The Egypt people used to put food and furniture in their bum' 

Must have been sighs of relief all round when they finally packed that in, then,  arf arf. But for bum read tomb, and it becomes boringly logical. The student obviously knew neither word, and rendered it phonetically as best s/he could. Pity we can't award marks for ingenuity and entertainment value. Lest you think I'm being superior and mocking, I should point out how entertainingly ludicrous these students find my attempts at Chinese.

*****

The population of the city where I work is 50% non-British in origin, and this must explain the obliviousness of British demotic demonstrated in the names people chose for their businesses. Why else would anyone call their shop The BS Off-License? Would anybody with any knowledge of queer slang open a fast food outlet and call it The Chicken Cottage? It's probably pure provincialism that lies behind  Le Petit Four Francais (no cedilla) a caff that does English fry-up breakfasts and sarnies traditionelles au bacon, sauce ketchup tomate.

11 comments:

Candy said...

You, oh great lathophobic aphasic, are making that up. I'm paralysed with mirth, it's 11.30pm and you have rescued my day.

Vilges Suola said...

Making it up? I'm not that inventive. All this enlivened a very frustrating afternoon where 27 teachers felt totally at a loss as to how to grade the scripts and got a bit collectively stroppy about things.

Dina Dobrou said...

He is NOT making that up! I can vouch for that! Here is my contribution from the papers I corrected:
1. Pyramids is a big house in Egypt.
2. Robbers would steal the mummies.
3. Pharaos built pyramids (and) sacrificed publicity for safety. But still couldn't escape from robbers.
4. They had been stolen by many robbers and mummy died.

Vilges Suola said...

Thanks, Dina!

Cerdo said...

My favourite story is when I was talking to someone at length about the Pharos of Alexandria. It was only after 45 minutes did he finally ask "So is Toot-Anky-Moon (sic) the Egyptian word for lighthouse?"

Vilges Suola said...

Very nice, that: a perfect example of how one misheard or misunderstood word sets us off on entirely the wrong path. We must have marked several thousand such examples last Thursday.

Candy said...

It's too much, honestly it is. I am too tired and that thought of where to start with it all is making me an alcoholic. I spent one long morning once trying to work out why a chap was so sure he had been transferred. "Because I have done my underwear", he kept insisting. I was at a loss, I really was, until some infinitesmal quirk of intonation let me hear "hand over".

Vilges Suola said...

I'm knackered too. I'm assessing presentations for the next two days. Mohammad is going to tell us about smart-phones. He showed me his powerpoint. It as an endless description of smart-phones. 'But everyone here has one' (except me) I said 'so what's the point in telling us all this?' He looked puzzled. I think I am going to have to stop taking it for granted that students realise that not only must they produce language, it has to FUCKING MAKE SENSE.

maria verivaki said...

i feel really sorry for those chinese students - they were doing something that does not seem at face value to have any real-life application

Vilges Suola said...

Well,they've all attended lectures specially laid on for the course, and had a fair amount of focus on lecture organisation, signposting and importance markers and so on,so they would have to be pretty dense not to see any practical application after five weeks. The problem was that the lecture wasn't an especially well-organised one and the marking was very hard to do - experienced tutors were able to give impression marks, but less experienced ones were at sea. I decided I would allow any format of notes,whether headings or bullets or paragraphed summaries,but would penalise isolated, unexplained figures and garbed names that would make no sense to the student a few weeks later. I think what needs emphasising to Chinese students is that the notes are for them, not for tutors - they shouldn't cram in stuff they don't understand.

Anyway, it's OVER! The whole sweaty, confused mess is over! All my admin's sorted, and I can stay home tomorrow.

maria verivaki said...

ha! i am glad for both of you!

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