Country Grammar

Not that my blog has thus far been any indication, but I do have actual, you know, responsibilities as a Fulbrighter.  It’s not all traipsing off to far-off places and gouging myself on chocolate-filled croissants, only mostly.  So, two months in (!), the time has come to tell you the stuff I’ve been telling my résumé as of late (have I mentioned I’ve been applying to grad schools?  I’m applying to grad schools): namely, teaching.  Actual, for-real, getting-up-in-front-of-a-class-and-talking-in-English-too-far-above-their-heads teaching.

I have zero, give or take zero, teaching experience.  But I like American topics well enough, so I figured I could do this.  Folk music?  Got it.  Southern-fried foods?  Love ’em.  Football?  I mean, I’ve seen it before.  So, I saw this opportunity as a chance to get to another country and spread my love for locality, for traditions, for anything specifically not Wal-Mart related (save Fayetteville) – I could rewrite America, not as as the obesity-plagued gun-toting war-mongering McDonald’s PlayPlace it’s become to the international eye, but as a place of diversity and quirky cultural amalgamations, of national parks, folksy traditions, and tall tales.  Essentially, it seems my plan was to swap one simplistic reading of America for another simplistic reading that I just liked better.  Solid.

But whoa-ho-ho, little Lori, not so fast.  Before you embark on your grandiose plan of painting all Americans as down-home folk wearing overalls and baking lattice-crust apple pies on Sundays, you have to get those tenses straight.

And just how un-straight they are.  I’m currently floundering in a sea of present perfect and simple past, of signal words, and of trying to figure out better explanations for the differences between “I’m going to” and “I will” other than “that’s just the way it is!”  Actually, I do really like when I can help with the grammar bits of lessons; it’s fun reminding myself of things I haven’t practiced since grade school days, and I tend to be a fan of grammar anyway – it’s like a puzzle, its formula the closest thing to anything faintly mathematical that I’ll ever like.  And it’s been pretty interesting to see common mistakes Germans make when learning English, generally the fault of direct translation – they live “in the near of” the Rhine, and they “visit” the Berufsbildende Schule, where they “learn” for tests.

But grammar aside, I have been given several opportunities to talk on “themes”: teenage life in America, Route 66, and later this week I’m supposed to present a lesson about American history, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the political system all in one, which will be… tricky.  Luckily, I’ll go armed with candy corn, which might distract them from all the awkward non-sequiturs that lesson will be sprinkled with (so kids, we just talked about the Great Depression; I bet they didn’t get much candy for Halloween during those years!  Kind of like how Charlie Brown just got rocks when he went trick-or-treating in this classic 1966 Halloween special…).  Or whatever.

Still, I’m feeling more prepared for this lesson than you might expect, because I’ve got my own little rock in my trick or treat bag ace up my sleeve:


J. William Fulbright, I hope I make you proud.

15 responses to “Country Grammar

  1. I have got to stop reading these at work. The folks on the other side of the cubical are starting to think I am crazy with my spontaneous laughter.

    Great post. You are absolutely hilarious. With all this practice in crammer, you will be able to write a book about your trip and edit it too!

    T-minus 6 months and counting!

  2. when I was in english class in germany, we went over “themes” in american culture and spent many a class talking about different cults. I had to assure my classmates over and over again that cults are not actually plaguing our nation, that I have never been involved in one, nor has anyone I’ve ever known. So…advice, don’t talk about cults. Or, if you get a lot of questions about them, at least maybe now you know why?

  3. Good Luck!!!!!

  4. Speaking of themes, I do not think a football is a very good Christmas present.

  5. Hadn’t made a comment in a while, so I thought I’d offer some favorable statistics (lots of people are commenting!) to your blog.

    I like your haircut. I know it was two months ago, but I haven’t seen such a clear shot of it until now. There goes.

    Wishing we could make it over the pond to see you… BP

  6. Looks like the discount aisle at Barnes and Noble did you right 🙂

    I’m crossing my fingers that Johnny Cash and John Prine weasle their way into a lesson at some point….

  7. i want to be your student!
    however, this week i will be teaching my students the incredible beauty that is “stay gold, ponyboy.” it’s the simple things in life.
    tell your students THAT’S what america is all about – the simple things. right? right?!

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