quinta-feira, 10 de maio de 2007

Learning English in the Seventies...


When I was remembering the story I now want to write about, I suddenly realised that any story you tell has to start with «once upon a time». So once upon a time in another world, in another country right here in Southwest Europe, obedience and silence were compulsory. No one can value what he ignores.

Freedom of thinking? Of expression? Hollow concepts for a teenager in those days... The rest of the world is something quite far away; so far away that he has no idea of what it is or who lives there. Wars are unfolding: a Portuguese one in African colonies since the beginning of the 60s, and an American one in Southeast Asia «against communism», as the teenager is told in TV news everyday. A young girl is running for her life along a never‑ending road: naked, burnt, and crying in pain and horror. Thick memories...

In Portugal Salazar is dead since 1969; in the United States Nixon has just made the mistake of his life. In London Marcelo Caetano, the Portuguese regime's epigone faces furious demonstrations against the colonial war and the Lisbon political regime. Times are changing. Meanwhile in the outskirts of Lisbon, on the mouth of the Tagus, the teenager goes to school (photo). Wonderful building, beautifully located. In the classroom he looks out of the window onto the river mouth. The scenery is overwhelming. He has been learning English for almost two years now. He likes it and enjoys every lesson. His teacher is a middle-aged «lady», Mrs. Carmona, member of a Portuguese well-known traditional family, who had finished her studies in Germanic philology in Oxford a long time ago. The Munich Olympic Games are approaching, and the teenager, always curious, wants to know what strange word is that he sees everywhere – München. So one day he asks Mrs. Carmona, knowing that she is a German teacher as well. She gives him a thorough answer, and teaches him how to pronounce that strange «ch», sounding so fascinating in his ears; so much so that it will change the course of his future studies...

Mrs. Carmona isn't an easy person to deal with. She is severe, suspicious of us boys (in public schools reigns a gender apartheid in classrooms), always looking over her shoulder, not allowing the slightest indiscipline, insisting on her own set of rules, which as a matter of fact is regime akin, and being in control of whatever happens in classroom. But the teenager is willing to oversee this less bright side of her personality in order to enjoy what he's learning everyday. Fascinating texts about London, the City, all the monuments, about England, about the United Kingdom, the British Isles, the Monarchy, the traditional institutions, History and Literature, you name it… The teenager has always shown some conservative tendencies, but he is not yet aware of it…

English written test today! O man, Mrs. Carmona's tests are always so difficult! What will she come up with now to put us guys against the wall? And the marks, Gosh! Better not think about that. «The Prince and The Pauper» is the text he has to read through very carefully in order to give the right answers to a long set of questions. And then grammar. And still a composition subject… In the end he's happy about his performance. He believes in a good outcome. So he may still get a good mark.

A few days later Mrs. Carmona returns the tests. The teenager is nervous; he takes his work at school very seriously. «Mr. M.! Well now, you succeeded at surprising me. You’ve got an 18!», she says. Being 20 the best mark, the teenager has all reasons to be happy. He may get a rather good mark at the end of that term. Great! But Mrs. Carmona is about to surprise him too. Until the end of that term she will keep him under strict surveillance, and he just cannot understand why. When the term is about to end, Mrs. Carmona indulges in giving a short explanation, which coming from her is more than odd. «At first I thought you'd managed to crib from Mr. V.. I think otherwise now. I still want to ponder the mark I'll give you this term though.» Not a single word more. The teenager is appalled. How could she ever? After school, while telling the story to his best friend, furious tears come to his eyes. «If she said that it's surely because she wants to give you a good mark, I bet.» he says to reassure his mate.

The official marks became public less than a week later. In the school lounge the teenager headed straight on to the official marks register of his class, looked for his name's row and the English column, between French and History. At the intersection he found «18». Mission accomplished.

How easy the teenager’s life was in those days...

RIC

10 comentários:

Tongzhi disse...

Aqui, atrás do sol posto, com uma net a "carvão", não vai dar para ler o te post como deve ser. Mas a foto, a foto deixou-me uma saudade...
É que foi aí que eu estudei :)

Minge disse...

You are a beautiful writer.

The Thunderbird disse...

A hug and kiss to you tonight. what a nice post.

The Thunderbird disse...

Kristeva is always so excited to see me.

dondon009 disse...

Thank you for sharing this brief glimpse of your life with those of us who have become so fond of you. It is beautifully written and a pleasure to read.

I was an english teacher in the early 70's; right out of college; energetic and enthusiastic and in love with the subject. I taught for one year. The students lacked interest and motivation. Parents refused to become involved.... today according to friends who chose to remain in the profession, things have continued to deteriorate..... they look forward to retirement.

The youth of today don't need to learn to spell or use correct punctuation. They use spell check on the computer and text message using slang.

Today's youth are no longer interested in literature.... cell phones and video games have captured their interest.

I'm not certain where we go from here.

DON~

RIC disse...

Hello, dear friends! Thank you all so very much for your most kind words!
Well, well, the Emperor did go to the same school as I did... I couldn't ever imagine it...

... Am I, Minge?...

I embrace you too, dear Will!

And as to you, dear Don, I'd say I stopped teaching at highschool for the exact reasons you've mentioned: It is impossible to cope with present day circumstances... (I'll come back to this subject one of these days!)

Many tender hugs to you all!

The Thunderbird disse...

THANK YOU RICKY

RIC disse...

You're most welcome, Will!...

Minge disse...

Yes. Beautiful writer, beautiful man.

I think you're delicious.

RIC disse...

... What a magical capability to see you must have, dear Minge!... I hope you can watch the inside... (I believe you can). :-)