Monday, March 15, 2010

Re-Examining the Theme of the WORDS Competition

Now that DW has officially selected its contestant for the WORDS competition (after some coaching from my counterpart, a very strong entry based around recycling a bottle by building a zipper into it and turning it into a pencil case) I can say a few 20/20 words about this year's theme.

The Changing World Outside My Window:
Where Am I From?
Where Am I Going?

Could we have possibly made the theme any worse? It is downright impenetrable. It's wordy, scatterbrained, and abstract. My fellow Indonesian teachers can barely wrap their heads around it. I went to liberal arts school for four years and I have to talk for ten minutes just to make it coherent. Should we have seen this coming, or what?

"The changing world outside my window" starts things off with a convoluted metaphor that is bound to be curious nonsense for any weak English speaker and especially Indonesians. In America we beat metaphors like this to death. They are so overused as to be meaningless. Here they're not even used to seeing anything like it, so it just doesn't compute.

Perhaps the most hilarious part is that "Where am I from?" and "Where am I going?" were supposed to clarify the first part, to make it more accessible to the Indonesian students. "World outside my window is too abstract - lets hit them with two more abstract, non-literal questions. That'll solve the abstraction problem."

The confused questions I got from students were always: what do you mean by window? where am I from, you mean my city or indonesia or what? where am I going right now, or next year, or what? After hearing these questions for three straight weeks and realizing that no one was getting it, it dawned on me that the THEME was the problem! I triumphantly said to myself, ha! the theme is terrible! And the funniest part is I had no idea until I had been beat over the head with its uselessness.

1 comment:

  1. My funniest submission was a girl who did a paint by number. The painting was a gondola scene in Rome. She wrote an essay describing how her parents bought her the paint by number, how hard it was, why it wasn't finished, and how the paint colors ran together. Since my other submissions came in fairly OK (3 of them were right on track), I don't blame my teaching ability.

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