By Pat Owens
Edited by Ivonne Diaz
So, before I moved to Aomori, I lived in Seoul, South Korea for a couple of years teaching at a place called Seoul Robot High School. (That’s an entire set of stories in itself.) However, one day I was fortunate to have class on April Fool’s Day. I wanted to do something elegantly cruel to my students, so I whipped up an idea for a quiz and told them the following at the start of class:
“Today, we will be taking a listening quiz. I’m going to show you a music video. All you have to do is write down 10 words that you hear. It’s going to be really easy. Let’s begin!”
This is the video that I showed them. If you’re unable to look at the video right now, it’s a really catchy song from the 70’s that starts off in an English classroom. The only problem is that the English teacher is Italian and doesn’t actually seem to speak English, but rather just starts speaking and singing in gibberish that sounds exactly like English. Even for a native English speaker, it is an unsettling experience. Watch it once you get the chance.
As the video played, the kids’ faces started contorting, struggling to grasp the words that seemed just at the edge of their English comprehension. The better English speaker the kid was, the more frustrated they were, coming to the conclusion that perhaps all this study of English had been for nought.
Most students began to write words that they claimed they heard, either mishearing them or just wildly stabbing for answers in the dark. One kid decided to be an overachiever and wrote down 20 words, all of which he most certainly, 100%, definitely heard for sure.
Once the video finished, I decided to be a nice teacher and let them watch it a second time to give them another chance. They were erroneously grateful.
After the video was finished, we began to check the quiz as a class. I had several students give me a couple of their answers and wrote them all on the white board for everyone to see. After I had about 20 potentially correct words on the board, I began to tell them which words were correct.
I started from the first word at the top, said “Nope!” and crossed it out with a red marker. I heard a whimper from the student who had suggested it. I continued to the next word, said “Definitely no!” and crossed it out. I continued the process until all 20 words cut in half by red marker.
The students looked haggard.
At this point, I stopped, turned around and looked at the class in silence for a few seconds.
I asked them, “What do you think this quiz has taught us?”
“We need to study more?” a student offered.
“No. I don’t think that’s the problem. I think the problem is, you have a very bad English teacher. I’m sorry.”
Guilt swept across their faces.
“The reason I’m such a bad English teacher is because the video I showed you was not in English. It sounds like English, but it’s not actually English. The singer in this video is Italian. Does anyone know what today is?” I asked them.
“April one,” a student returned.
Large gears turned in their little heads. Eventually, stifled laughter shot out from a face buried in a black Northface jacket. Slowly, the laughter moved like a wave throughout the class.
I finally told them, “Happy April Fools Day!” and let the students watch the video one last time with proper framing.
I made them promise not to tell their classmates. It was early in the day and I had three more classes to teach.
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