I play a game with my students at school. I call it ‘Conversation Questions’ and the point is to get them thinking and talking in English. Some of the questions are real stumpers like, “If you could be any animal, what would you be?” or “How would you describe your best friend?” But my personal favorite is, “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?”
In the most atheist country in the world, where the majority of young people don’t know about God, much less believe in him, this one little question can be tricky.
From my seventh to my ninth graders, answers have spanned from, “What will my future be?” “Am I pretty?” and, amid the laughter of his friends, “Who is my future wife?”
Today, seventh grader Lenka drew the question from our conversation box. She leaned back in her chair with a half-cocked smirk and quizzical eyes. Her girlfriends whispered suggestions to her in Czech – one I understood was, “Jak se máš?” which is informal Czech for, “How are you?” Kinda like, “Hey God, what’s up? How’re you feeling today?”
Finally, Lenka sat up straight and gave me a square look.
“I would ask him how old he is,” she said.
“What would you like to drink?” the airline steward asked as we flew over a sleeping continent. Next to the dark window, the Czech woman to my left lifted her head and said, “I’ll have red wine.” Till that point I hadn’t been sure of her nationality because her monosyllabic responses had not provided enough ground to determine an accent, but she said wine with a pronounced ‘v’ at the beginning. I chuckled to myself, how Czech of her to ask for wine with her meal. They do love their spirits.
Then, while still laughing at the stereotype sitting next to me, I asked for a coffee. I’m an American and some habits die hard. Conscious of this, I turned to the man on my right. Would he give us culturally-predictable tick-tack-toe?
“And you, sir?” asked the steward.
Looking up from his newspaper, the thin British man in his mid-40’s said, “I’ll have a spot of tea, please. Cheers.”
If I think I’m going to have an adventure, I bring my camera. I bring my camera because I like using pictures when I blog about my adventures – I feel like I’m half-hashing a post when I put it up without pictures. (Also, I acknowledge that I’m part of an ADD generation who probably won’t read a entire post without visual aids).
Hang on; let me get back on topic here.
So I went on my first teacher’s conference. It was a two-day/one-night excursion in Tabor. I actually don’t know how many teachers were there, but there were a lot of us. More than thirty. I knew several prior to take-off because I made a point of meeting up with a few people from the language department during the summer, but on the whole it was me and a bus full of strangers.
I’m used to being the new girl and I’m used to being the weird one and the youngest and, you know, whatever. HOWEVER, I also very heavily rely on my ability to talk my way into people’s good graces. The obvious problem here is that not many of my colleagues can speak English and … I don’t speak Czech.
Oh, I’ve learned a few phases like, “Ráda poslouchám vlaky, protože mě uspávají, ale ze všeho nejvíc mám ráda, když zpíváš.” Literal translation? “I like listening to trains because they put me to sleep, but more than anything, I like it when you sing.”
When will I ever need to use that?