Since I’m on my Year Abroad to actually do some work (I’m sorry if you feel deceived, dear Reader, I know my last 2 blog posts gave more of an impression that all I ever do is rabbit on about sex toys which pay homage to European landmarks), I thought I should fill you in on what it is that I’m actually supposed to be doing here. I’m an English Language Assistant (ELA), and just like all other ELAs in Germany, Austria, France, Spain and a little further afield, I work 12 hours a week in a school.
My experience is a little different from most other ELAs, as I’m working in a vocational school. In my case, it’s a college with about 1,000 students with one particular area of expertise in woodwork. I know what you’re thinking if you know me personally, dear Reader; I don’t really know what I’m talking about when it comes to woodwork, I’ll give you that. My woodwork knowledge extends to handing my Dad a screwdriver and watching him assemble Ikea furniture.
I may not know much about their area of expertise, but I hope that my 20 years as an English speaker, and unfailingly pedantic nature when it comes to grammar, qualify me enough to be able to help with the EL aspect of being an ELA!
That is what I had hoped, anyway. But in reality, my students know English words which I didn’t even know existed. They’ve been telling me all about ‘dovetail joints’ and ‘mitred joints’ and their uses and benefits. Eventually I’m hoping to be able to explain to you all what these actually are. I’m working on it. The title of this post comes from another joint, this time of the ‘butt’ variety. I had been out of the classroom and came back in to be greeted by the question ‘Charlotte you’ll know this, is “Butthead” a word? Do you say it?’ I had no clue where this question had come from, so once I had finished laughing I said that it was indeed a real word, but no, I personally didn’t use it.
If you’re interested, then the one of the students mentioned that the German equivalent is something like ‘“Arschgesicht” ‘arse face’, quite literally. You’re welcome.
One of my classes ranges in age from 23-49, so I’m not sure how they feel about a 20-year-old Brit in a tea dress and riding-style boots swanning in to their workshop and trying to coax English out of them. Probably not great. While they may span over 20 years in age, the one thing they all have in common is their talent. It’s really quite something. They’ve made everything from multi-thousand-Euro beds, to HiFi cabinets, to staircases (yes, a STAIRCASE. I asked if I could have one and he said I’d need a new house. I’ll work on that, too.) to front doors. At the moment this particular class is working on a joint project of making a Chaise Longue with two different reclining positions. This will be featured in a furniture expo in Cologne in January, which I might be able to go to as well!
As one of the students (my staircase friend) said to me about their project, ‘Du erlebst das mit uns!’ ‘You’re experiencing this with us!’ So it would be great to go and see the final result.
Since I don’t have too much to do with the practical side of things, some of the language aspect with this class involves them pitching their ideas and products to potential buyers in English, and last week I had to play this role. I feel stereotypically British and easily embarrassed in being rubbish at haggling/bartering/bargaining/being forthright and rude anyway, so I wasn’t surprised when one of the students declined my hypothetical offer of 50 Euros and a hug in exchange for the 2000 Euro bed he’d made. I’m sure it was all down to my negotiating style.
So that’s a little insight into my day job here. I’m off now for my busiest day of work (3 hours…laughable, I know) to teach more German students naughty English words.