“Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, awkwardly on the tongue….” Apologies for maligning the Bard, but the recent rise in my daughter’s call to oratory duty did remind me of Shakespeare’s advice (delivered by Hamlet to the players) about how to deliver lines. My daughter attends a local private kindergarten called Venus in English and a very different sounding name in Chinese. The education is decent, the cost is manageable, and the English lessons, for a native speaker of English, are hilarious, even for a six year old. If I’m not mistaken, she is the only kid in the school for whom English is not a second language, though there are a handful of kids with decent proficiency. Some of the Chinese teachers can carry on a conversation, but overall, the English lessons are understandably basic and about like this:
Teacher: How are you?
Students: I’m fine, thank you, and you?
Sure, they hit colors, animals, and a few simple topics, but the kids are not giving speeches in English or anything like that. Except for one child.
For the second time in as many months, Reina has brought home a speech to be delivered before all the school as a class representative, this time for Sports Day. This is all well and good, but she is the only student giving a speech in English for an audience that, by and large, will not understand it. The other class representative are all giving speeches in Chinese, which would be perfectly fine for my native proficiency progeny, but, well, she also speaks English, so that’s cool. I guess.
What makes the speech more peculiar is that it was written by a teacher with only (how do I put this delicately?) a rudimentary grasp of the English language and all of its many quirks. It was not written, or co-authored, or even spell checked by one of the native English teachers at the school. So my beloved daughter brought home the speech to be memorized, her mother patiently rewrote it (after much giggling) so that it made sense, and I suspect only a few will understand it or even actively listen when Reina delivers the speech; it is Sports Day after all, so enough with the speeches and let the games begin! I just wonder if anyone will catch the sleeper line I threw in about a man-eating shark and needing a bigger boat.
photo by Funka-Lerele on Flickr