Saturday, January 26, 2008

Private Students

Apparently the one New Year’s Resolution that everyone and their mother made was to study English, because I’ve been inundated with new private students recently. At last count, it’s 14 lessons a week, which isn’t as terrible as it sounds, due to three things:

1. The piles of cash, in 1500 forint increments, I keep finding everywhere - in random pockets, on tables, in bags, stuffed into books... Even though a couple lessons I do for free, and some others are sketchy about paying on time, it still adds up to at least 15,000 a week. Sweet.

2. Most lessons take little or no prep time. In most cases, I take whatever book/materials we’re using, photocopy the next few pages, maybe find some supplementary activities, and I’m ready to go.

3. Unlike previous years, I actually like most of my private students (have you ever tried provoking conversation with someone with who you have nothing in common? It’s mind-numbing). Three of my favorites (since lists of three seem to be my thing today):

The Little Girl: 9 years old, third grade, incredibly basic English. Last time we worked on days of the week, of which she knew none. In addition to being adorable, she’s incredibly smart - I tell her a word twice, and it’s branded into her head forever. Plus, I like to think that it’s because of me that her accent is so good.

The Student: one of Varga’s students approached me for extra lessons, mainly to prepare for the language exam he’s taking in a few months. We meet twice a week and work on a variety of materials. I like him simply because he seems a lot like me at that age. I have some doubts about his ability to pass this exam, but - whether he does or not, after the exam I know our lessons will be over, and I’ll miss them.

The Mom: one of my newest students; she’s the mother of a Varga student who this year is studying abroad in, of all places, Minnesota. We meet three times a week, so it’s a good thing I love lessons with her so much (seriously, when I close the door behind her after a lesson, I usually have to do some sort of happy dance or sing my-god-i-love-her under my breath). Her English is very, very basic, but she’s incredibly, contagiously enthusiastic, not afraid of mistakes (she self-corrects a lot) and even after a short time I can see her improving.

And starting next week, I’m getting one or two new students... yikes. Well, it’s nice being busy...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

You Know You're Hungarian When...

A friend forwarded this to me, and I had to post it. Not only is it hilarious, but pretty accurate test of Hungarianism...

You Know You're Hungarian...

1. When you use sour cream more than ketchup.

2. When your parents come to visit for 3 weeks and you all stay in a one bedroom apartment.

3. When feeding your guests is your main priority even if they claim they're not hungry and in which case you get slightly offended/upset that they don't want your hospitality.

4. When someone says that Hungarian "is like Russian and all those other Slavic languages," and then you have to go into great detail about the origins of Hungarian with a scolding history lesson.

5. When Paprika is just as important as salt & pepper on the table & in food.

6. When you know what Unicum is and prefer it over Jagrmeister.

7. When you know how to open a bottle of wine with only a screw and a pair of pliers.

8. When you tell someone that you are Hungarian, they ask "Are you hungry?" Then you congratulate them on being the millionth person to say that to you.

9. When you've heard, "If you're hungry, why not go to Turkey?" at least once in your life.

10. When you have a relative who's named Attila. Or Jozsef. Or Janos. Or Laszlo.

11. When half of your mothers friends husbands have the name Jozsef.

12. When you know that the "goulash" you see in many restaurants has in actuality little/nothing to do with the gulyas leves we really eat.

13. When meeting another Hungarian in a country outside of Hungary is amazing.

14. When you know the meaning of "kurva" even if you don't know any other Hungarian word.

15. When you love Turó Rudi but cant really explain to foreigners what the hell that is untill they try it.

16. When your foreign friends ask you if you still believe that Santa Claus brings the presents on the night between December 24th-25th... then you answer somehow confused that Santa Claus brings the presents on the 6th of December and it is actually Little Jesus who brings the presents on Christmas, but the presents are already there on the 24th at 6PM.

17. When a pancake is extremely flat in your country and you roll it up instead of folding it.

18. When you know what TÚRÓ is.

19. When you know the phrase "three is the Hungarian truth".

20. When 7 is a bad number.

21. When you leave your house for longer than 2 hours, you make sure there's enough sandwiches, apples, bottled tap water, coffee in a thermos, and chocolate bars packed for everyone to survive (without spending a dime)!

22. When you do not speak with your mouth full.

23. When guys keep telling you that Hungarian girls are the cutest and prettiest and hope that you just believe it and they get laid.

24. When they wanna show off by saying that they know your capital: Bucharest and no, they are not joking!

25. When you go into a Chinese restaurant and order your Sechuan chicken with french fries, cucumber salad and ask for a few slices of bread as well.

26. When you have a funny accent in every other language you speak.

27. When you love Mákos Guba and you can't explain what MÁK is, neither GUBA to anyone.. and if you finallly can, everyone will think you're some kind of weirdo for eating that.

28. When you go into a Posta when every single old person in Budapest wants to, and they keep letting their mates into the line.

29. When catching a bus an old lady with lots of heavy bags runs by you and reaches the bus first, then sits down panting and complaining how old she is and how the stuff is heavy and young people are not well educated, etc.

30. When you start counting on your hand with one being the thumb.

31. When you can swear for 5 minutes straight, with one breath, not using the same word, ever.

32. When you know what 'lángos' is.

33. When you wish you would get 5 bucks everytime somebody says "I know a hungarian word... bazdmeg... *laugh*..."

34. When you can show off your engagement ring, worn on the opposite hand.

35. When you know why the bells of every church ring every day at noon.

36. When you have difficulty pronouncing words started with "W" in English, but you're capable of creating long and meaningful sentences using only "E" vowels in you mother tongue.

37. When you would rather stand up in a tram/trolley when there are plenty of seats available.

38. When you have more excuses for the kontrollers than you have tickets.

39. When the train hasn't even left the station, but you are already eating your home made sandwiches (usually with half a paprika or tomato in it).

40. When you tell everybody that Hungarian people always criticize everything.

41. When the home-made sandwiches on the train include Wienerschnitzel.

So I got 27 out of 41 (take that, Citizienship Board!), although I still have no idea about “three is the Hungarian truth...”

Friday, January 18, 2008

(Nem) beszélek magyarul

I play this game about speaking Hungarian. I play it with Hajni, Mariann, Caley, Petra.... etc. The rules of the game are like this: whenever they introduce me to someone new, it’s with the phrase, “This is Emily. She speaks Hungarian.” Variants include “This is Emily; she speaks fluent Hungarian” and “This is Emily. She’s American, but don’t worry, she speaks Hungarian.” Then it’s my turn, and I come back with something like, “Oh, no, not really.” Or, “Oh, no, just a little.” This meek protest inevitably leads to the new person assuming that I do speak fluently, and I end up speaking my broken, difficult Hungarian to people who speak English incredibly well. It’s a great game, really.

Anyway. I realized this week, that maybe I should stop protesting, because... I kinda do speak Hungarian. Bad, broken, sorely-in-need-of-practice Hungarian, but understandable and workable nonetheless. In the last week I’ve...

- brought back late library books, not pay a fine, and negotiate through the fact that my card was expired
- set up a new private lesson, on the phone (ON.... THE.... PHONE!)
- bought a pair of boots from a street dealer (actually, a “lobby dealer,” if such a thing exists)
- entertained, explained, and helped my students
- fielded various personal questions from colleagues - both my own and the Újszász crew

And somehow typed out it doesn’t seem like a long list. I guess I was joust proud to admit it to myself. So... early birthday present, pat on the back to me. Now... back to studying some more.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Values and Beliefs

With my 11th graders, I’m painfully working our* way through “A Discussion of American Beliefs and Values,” a somewhat dry interview with 4 American high-schoolers about what values are most important for them. I began yesterday with the first group.... awful. While they were half-lazing, half terrorizing each other, and no-percent working, I was doodling a cartoon of the word “ABYSMAL” in my grade book...

Today with the second group, I wasn’t expecting much better, but they they surprised me my working half-diligently almost the entire hour. Except one group, of course, who did half the exercises before rambling off-topic. More interesting than the worksheet to them was to make up bizarre, semi-thoughtful, “discussion questions.” The best two:

-What would you do if someone told you that you would die in one week?
-Would you rather kill yourself or kill another person? Does your answer change based on who the other person is?

It’s a great feeling of success for me, and I suspect for other teachers as well, when take something from class and expand it into their own lives in some way. Since these questions can, plausibly, be linked back to values and beliefs, I choose to believe that’s what the boys were doing. Not just slacking off...

*should it be “our way” or “my way”? “My way” sounds right, but isn’t the subject “I and the 11th graders,” therefore, “our way”? This sounds like a questions for Mrs. Chili’s Grammar Wednesday...

And speaking of slacking off... I’m off work for a week and off to Budapest to help train the new amcsik.... I mean, the new American CETP teachers.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year

I’m back! Resolution for this year: blog regularly. Regularly meaning once a week minimum. Once a week meaning with gaps of no more than 7 days.

Other resolutions involve all the customary things, like booze, money, health, housekeeping, work, self-improvement, etc.

On housekeeping: Do it better. Hell, just do it.

On work: I’ve been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with my lesson plans; if I can keep it up and improve just a bit I’d be satisfied.

On health: Actually, I’m not doing so badly, if only I could get rid of my “Santa/baby/belly”

On self-improvement: Learn Hungarian, learn many things, just keep learning in general. Be less selfish, think more about other people. Continue being lazy, but in a more functional way - for example, today I had no electricity upstairs. Instead of finding someone to fix this problem, I used to to justify doing no work all day.

On booze: The hardest one. Giving up drinking entirely is, let’s face it, not a viable option. But I have to find some limits, define them, stick to them.

On money: Payoff credit card or risk broken kneecaps. Begin paying student loans responsibly. Open a savings account here and establish credit; begin thinking about (gulp) retirement funds.

Well... there you go. Stay tuned; approximately 50-odd entries later, I’ll let you know how it goes.