Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Grammar Validation for Ani

So. I. Hate. Class. 10.D.
(both halves.)

They complain they do not understand, then refuse to listen when I try to explain. We have reviewed the same sets of vocabulary since the beginning of the year. Yet, somehow, words like happy, shirt, hat, cold are too difficult.

At one point, I must have looked a little dejected at my desk because one of the non-English speaking teachers asked Ani what was wrong with me. When she told her I had just had 10 D. , the teacher sighed, shook her head sadly, and said "Eauhhhh.. . phooey.

I don't know the names of the kids in the class yet because both halves seem to come and go as they please, showing up for either class or not at all. Today was a test day, which I have warned them about for weeks. I had a full class which was particularly bad today.

When I started to grade the tests, only 3 of the students were actually supposed to be in the class. The rest were from the other half or. . .who knows. Ani talked to the super-scary assistant director who said he would "talk to them." (I was terrified just watching him hear Ani's translation.)

Later I mention that I didn't know what to do about the other half of the class' test because "they will have seen it already."
Ani started to answer.
"I've never heard a native speaker use the future perfect tense before in conversation."

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

One More Reason I Love My Secretaries

I think I've mentioned to about anyone who will listen that my school will feed me 3 meals a week day if I want. I usually only eat breakfast and dinner because I am just too lazy to get up for breakfast at 6:30 when school doesn't start until 8:00. (though I should probably start) Because of the "free" part of this arrangement, I don't really complain about things, even to myself. Usually, the food is good. Especially when the "cafeteria" aspect is taken into account.

Last night, though, was interesting. The usual tub of fresh, delicious bread slices was there. Then, we each got a plate of a whole tomato, two boiled egg, and. . .some sort of processed cylindrical meat. The tomato was wonderful, the eggs were. . . I dunno, boiled eggs. . .but that meat. . .I what I could of it spread on some bread.

One of my secretaries (My school has several two year vocational programs that many students attend after graduating high school) who usually doesn't talk too much unless absolutely forced asks me,
"How do you like dinner at school?"
I told her I generally thought it was very good.
"So what do you think about yesterday night dinner?"
"Umm. . .it was. . .I don't think I've ever seen--"
"Gross, " She cut me off, "I'm not sure what it was. . .processed meat of . . .something."
I laughed and told her I was glad she said that because I was feeling like a really spoiled and stereotypically uncultured American.
"No. Cat food. I don't know. Maybe from a canned cat food."

Monday, October 6, 2008


So, Hungarian keyboards still get me. The z and the y are switched, punctuation is not where it should be, instead there are keys specifically for the multitude of accented letters the language uses. A lot of the figures that are on the number keys that you have to "shift" to get up to @, &, # are mixed around (some bumped to the bottom row of letters that you use "ctrl alt" to type.

I usually find myself just staring at the keyboard about once a day trying to find one character or another. Even if I find something once I am likely to loose it and have to go searching again. My first week I spent maybe five minutes trying to find the quotation marks. I was really proud when I finally did. Shift alt, hit the key, let up, the type the words. Weird, but maybe just Hungarian. Takes a while, but it works.

Today, I was trying to type a quotation that started with a vowel. It would not work. All would get was "ű." By chance I happened to look a few keys down the board. What do I see above the 2? Quotation marks. I have been umlatting every quotation since I have gotten here.

While typing this, I happened to look at the 1 key. Guess what is there. The Apostrophe. I have been avoiding contractions and possesives like it is my job. Until now. In past entries, I have cringd everytime I typed an aprostropheless possesive, but typing "the book of Janós" was too bulky for even me.

I will now be able to contract, possess and repeat things with grammatical ease.

I usually begin each class by asking how they are, how their weekends went, ect. Usually, they respond like little robots ˝I am fine, thanks. And You?˝ which is how theyve been drilled to respond for years. I am a little proud of that I am beginning to get new answers. Usually ˝Terrible˝ or ˝Sick in my head˝ or ˝It is too cold˝ or ˝tired˝ but at least they are not fine, I guess.
Today when I asked my generally good, but very talky (in Hungarian) 9C, I got the standard chorus of ˝I slept, MSN, played WoW, etc. ˝ (pronounced Voav). However, Roland, one of the better students in the class, always saying "ok, we understand." when generally he is the only one who understands, told me " Terrible, terrible, sad. Dead this weekend are two friends in the car."
What do you say to that in English? Let alone to a student with whom I can barely communicate in general. I told him I was very very sorry, but those are the extent of words we share for situations like that. I dont think most of the kids understood what he said, those who did were appropriately shocked.
When the form teacher came in to supervise the class while we listened to a memorial day remberance program for the 13 Hungarian generals who were exected after one of the many revolutions (1849 maybe?), he scolded many of the students for having coats on and Roland for having up the hood on his sweatshirt. While I realize I am no where near as strict as most of the teachers here, usually teachers at home give some leeway for students like this. I am stuck between wondering if the form teacher just didnt know or if it was an instance of the general Hungarian attitude of pessimism--life is hard, bad things will always happen. Get over it and move on.
After the class, a few of the boys stayed to talk to Roland, which made it least seem a little better. But still. . .what was I supposed to do?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Teaching in Szolnok

I have agreed to teach for a language school in Szolnok once a week starting the 7th. On Tuesdays, I will teach two 45 minute lessons--to the same group on the same day. Julia insists it is two 45 minute lessons instead of one 90 minute one--I think it has something to do with the amount of lessons the company signed up for or something. It is just annoying b/c it is all the same to me and I never know what she is talking about.

I will be teaching a group of three women who work for the only European subsidiary of an American company that makes leather car interiors.They are very proud of this. I think they want to be able to better understand teleconferences they have with America. Julia insists that she could only use an American due to accents and rhythm. As Emily refuses to answer her calls, I don't know what she would have done if I said no.

Julia herself is a very. . .pushy woman. Maybe determined is another word. I guess she called the school looking for me and told Ani she needed my number "like she had every right to it." Emily mentioned her being bossy and Ani caught it in the first impression. After one meeting, I tend to agree. Because I am at the business, I won't have to see her but once at the end of the month to talk through how things are going and get paid. She does want me to come by the international school to talk to some of her students. . .always excited to meet Americans. I dont really want to, so Ill have to get used to saying no.

It is a longer session than I thought it would be--26 lessons, which means I must teach through the middle of April. Geh. That was the major sticking point. What if I hate it and they hate me? What if I can not do even basic buisiness English? What if Julia drives me to the asylum? I guess it is too late for all of this now. . .It will be nice to have the extra 15000 HUF a month. Really, I should pretty much be able to live off of that and leave my salary for fun and travel.

Aerobics Class

I dont know whether or not I mentioned it before, but in addition to carrying a shopping basket (so much easier and stronger than a bag) and joining the embroidery hobby circle, I have started to go to the aerobics class taught by one of the gym teachers on Mondays and Thursdays. Although it is held at the school gym, it is open to the public and costs a whopping 300 ft a class. (Around a 1.85 USD), which takes away a lot of my excuses to go.
The class itself is an interesting hybrid of modern and. . .Hungarian. Our warmup usually consists of running, skipping, galloping, or ˝swimming˝around the gym, followed by an aerobics routine that reminds me of everything I hated about middle school ˝Sweating to the Oldies˝. Somehow though, sweating to American pop songs set to disco beats (not to mention a cool-down to Jessica Simpson) with a group of middle-aged Hungarian women and a few of my students is much more tolerable. After a bit, we move to a pilates-something else session that includes more crunches than I care to even think about. I am lucky that there was a yoga mat in my flat, others bring beach towels, rugs, and chair pads. All the same, it is fun, the women are nice, the routines are challenging, and it makes actually do something besides sit in my flat and pretend to think about studying for the GRE. (Plus I am one of the more coordinated and flexible ones in the group, which is a lifetime first--maybe I just go for the ego boost.. . and hey, when I mess up, I can always blame the language)