Pupils say the funniest things
Spanish children by dirk huijssoon
Probably the best thing about teaching, aside from obvious gratification and earning some dough (no more relying on your ever-dependable Student Finance), is hearing the gems pupils come out with whilst learning English. I am currently working as a language assistant in Madrid, where I am teaching primary school classes: ages 6-11 years old, which is prime picking ground for cute misunderstandings and mistranslations. I have only been here a month, but already I have a selection of misquotes worthy of You’ve Been Framed...Sexual Innuendos
Now, we all know sex sells. But unfortunately this modern attitude seems to have penetrated the minds of young children, too. Upon showing my second-grade pupils a video of the alphabet, we arrived at ‘P.’ One girl took it upon herself to shout out the word of a particular foodstuff on screen, but in Spanish. For the purposes of this article we will call her María, because it is a decidedly Spanish name, yet ironically I teach a sum total of zero Marías.
“Do you know the word in English, María?”
Despairingly, I replied that no, the word she was searching for was not porn, but popcorn. Erm, easy mistake to make.
Moving on from the alphabet, the children have been learning about animals. I found a video on YouTube of ‘Old MacDonald had a farm,’ that old, inoffensive classic. However, I didn’t realise that when sung by 6-year olds who still, perhaps unsurprisingly, have Spanish accents, that in certain cases, the singalong version would sound like ‘Old MacDonald had a fart.’ Not quite the same meaning there then.
It was during the very same song that I realised the kids enjoyed it so much because there was a Spanish version set to the same tune, and indeed listening closely it became apparent that the English singing was accented with a touch of the continental. Not a problem, as the difference was barely noticeable to the non-native ear. Apart from when we reached the word ‘sheep’. This word posed a bit of a problem, as the elongated double ‘e’ sound had been shortened to sound more like the ‘i’ in ‘ship.’ Not so amusing on face value, but when coupled with the little ones’ tendency to confuse certain consonant sounds, it ended up that on that farm, Old MacDonald had something rather unmentionable in a classroom. Work that one out.
Equally hilarious is pupils’ interests in the private lives of teachers. Within my first two days at school, I had been asked if I was last year’s assistant’s girlfriend, if I had a baby or if my male colleague was my husband. Add to this the fact that when I told them I was 20 years old, they all expressed disgust that I was far too young to be a teacher. I resolved to tell them little about my home life beyond the necessary facts.
More amusement to follow, I hope.