Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Well done!

I was watching this wonderful series of videos on YouTube (the link is to only the first one), when I suddenly started laughing. This happened when I got to about the three minute point in part three. At that point the guy (whose name I forget) says to Derek,

"Perfect! Well done!"

and Derek answers,

"Thank you."

The reason I laughed was that all through this series I had been irresistibly reminded of a student I had two years ago who spoke exactly in the way Derek does, and that particular exchange was exactly the same as one my student and I had numerous times. But I didn't even realize I was using those words until the second-to-last class, when I used different words, and caused a wee upset.

What happened was that we had a speaking test, in which my students have 'conversations' with random partners, and I grade them. The weird student (I feel a bit bad calling him that, but he was odd) was concerned about this test, and prepared far too much. By this I mean that he prepared for any possible question a random partner could ask him in the course of the conversation. This was not as difficult as it might seem, as during the 'conversation' part of class over the past weeks he had heard the same familiar questions over and over and over. My students are not very imaginative when it comes to conversations in English. They stick to the language they know. "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" they ask. "Do you like sports?" "What's your favourite food?" and so on. But the test is supposed to be of a conversation, not a prepared speech, and that was the problem. Conversations are hard for a person who finds social interaction a challenge.

And it meant that during his test, when his partner asked him a question, my odd student was well prepared. His partner asked him,

"What did you do last weekend?"

And the odd student responded very fluently, and at length, with a prepared speech explaining exactly what he had done last weekend, in great detail and using a lot of words he had apparently looked up in the dictionary. In fact he answered with so much detail and so fluently that his partner couldn't get a word in edgeways, which was probably just as well because I could see he couldn't understand very much anyway. Then the timer went off and the test was over. The odd student's partner hadn't had a chance to speak yet.

The partner escaped as soon as the test was over, looking anxious. The odd student stayed behind, looking at me, waiting for a response.

"Was THAT all RIGHT?" he asked.

"Yes!" I said. "That was very good!"

He continued to stand there. It was clear he was waiting for something.

"You did very well!" I added reassuringly.

This did not seem to help, and I couldn't figure out what he was waiting for. We stared at each other. Finally he spoke again.

"WELL DONE?" he asked.

"Huh?" I said, and then, quickly, "Yes! WELL DONE!"

"THANK you," he said, and left.

I sat there staring after him, and realized what had happened. Every time he did well at something (which was often), and wanted to know if he'd done it right, I had, apparently, said,

"Well done!"

And he would reply,

"Thank you!"

I didn't even realize I was doing it.

But he did, and it bothered him when I didn't say it after the test.

So that is what that video reminded me of. Derek has exactly the same speech mannerisms that my student had. If I listen but do not look at the video when Derek is speaking, that could be my student. And when he said, "Thank you!" in response to someone saying, "Well done!" – well, that made me laugh, because it reminded me of my student and that test. (Incidentally, I gave the odd student's partner an A for the test, and told him so. I had chosen him because I'd heard him often enough in class, knew he was good, and knew he would not panic too badly if things went pear-shaped during the test, which they did. I thanked him for remaining calm and he was delighted to find out he hadn't failed after all.)

You might remember that when I originally wrote about my odd student I said that it was very difficult to describe the way he spoke, although I tried. Well, now I do not need to describe it. If you listen to Derek speaking you will know exactly what I was talking about.

You might also understand why I found my student so endearing.


Keera Ann Fox said...

I watched a little bit from clips one and three and now there are two people I haven't met, but that you have made me aware of and appreciate: Your student and Derek.

But you have me feeling like one of your students right now: What does the phrase "go pear-shaped" mean? Is it a New Zealand turn of phrase?

Badaunt said...

I didn't realize the expression wasn't used in the US. It means 'go wrong,' basically, and when you asked I realized I had no idea where the expression came from. But it seems that nobody knows for sure, so I'm not the only one!

Keera Ann Fox said...

I read the explanations and learned a lot of new things. I did wonder if it may relate to glass-blowing.

The "tits-up" explanation referring to breasts is rubbish (to put it Britishly), IMO, if one has ever seen real breasts. They are always pear- (or tear-drop) shaped. On a woman lying down, they tend to go sideways, not up. Unless her bra or plastic surgeon are involved.

Badaunt said...

I agree about the 'tits-up' explanation. I always assumed it was self-explanatory - that it meant lying on your back, therefore with tits up. But the image I always get with that expression is of a dead bird (a tit?) with its feet in the air. I don't know why.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Because when it comes to describing an error, a bird lying on its back makes more sense than a woman lying on her back? ;-) Works for me.