Monday, November 15, 2004

Ripped off

Today I used the haggling game again, in my community class. This class is of older learners. The ages range from mid-thirties to mid-seventies. They are beginners, and are keen to learn.

They loved the game, and proved themselves to be very good hagglers, far better than the university students the other day. They were downright tricky, in fact, and at the end of the game I felt compelled to teach them a new word. I wrote I GOT RIPPED OFF! on the board, and waited until they'd all noticed it. (Some of them were still haggling, being reluctant to stop the game before closing a sale.)

When they saw the words on the board, they all started scribbling in their notebooks. I waited. Eventually one of them asked, "What does 'ripped off' mean?"

Sometimes it's faster to give a translation, so I dredged through my pitiful Japanese vocabulary for one. "Inchiki, I said, then mumbled to myself, "No, wait, that's what I call The Man, that's not it, or is it...?" Then I said, "Well, it might be inchiki, or possibly damasu"

(The woman sitting nearest me doubled over with laughter at my comment about The Man, and I remembered that her English was quite a bit better than that of the others.)

They thought about it, and still looked puzzled, so I decided a demonstration was necessary. I stood up and pointed a finger accusingly.

"Watch out for Mrs Tapioka!*" I said, sternly. "She ripped me off! Do you know how much she charged me for half a Chinese cabbage?"

Mrs Tapioka jumped, went pink, and erupted. "This year typhoons!" she shouted indignantly. "Vegetables expensive!"

"No!" I insisted. "You ripped me off!" I appealed to the others. "FIVE HUNDRED YEN for HALF a Chinese cabbage!"

Little lightbulbs went off all over the place, and there was uproar as discussions erupted amongst the women over whether or not that was the going price. (The only man, Mr Happi*, aged seventy-something, was laughing so hard he started to wheeze alarmingly and couldn't contribute.) I think I won in the end, although Mrs Tapioca refused to give me a refund.

By the end of all this everybody knew exactly what 'ripped off' meant.

I'd forgotten how much fun it is to teach adults, and especially how much fun it is to teach middle-aged Kansai women.

*No, that is not her name, but it is her shape.

*No, this is not his name, but it is his nature.