Monday, March 2, 2009

The Great American Influence

I know I've mentioned my Polish friends before (pic attached). They are based here and maintain the Polish helicopters. Their soldiers are also based in Ghazni where they have a larger presence, along with greater military responsibility for that region. My friends Przemec and Tadek flew to Ghazni to do some work. It has turned out so far to be for 2-3 weeks, as expected. They should be returning soon.

Przemek's email from Ghazni (below) reminded me of being back home at school, working with students who are learning English. It is displayed without editing, except for location:

"cześć Mark, thank you for wrtting, Gazni is small place bat I thing so it is safety, I would like to come back to Base X how it is posible , bat My helicopters not flay now. Im going come back this week, TheWeather smotime is good bat not often, The acomodation is wore then ni Base X, is only small gym , bat my soliders are wery funy. I was too on Mass on Ash Wednesday, I dont have a lot of work because we heave problem with secial fiuel to helicopters. so we stay in erth. so sory my writing is not good I think co We will meet too, have you goot day Mark"

I am often humored by Przemek's attempts at spoken English. An example...

One evening we were at the AF rec area and I showed them how to play UNO, a card game I play at home with my son. Thought it would be a good game to teach them, because it involves colors, numbers, and words, in English. They enjoyed learning the game, and playing enabled them to practice speaking English. It just so happened that, next to us, was a group of young Army and AF soldiers playing Texas Hold-Em (poker); they were having their own unique experience. The soldiers were boisterous, enjoying themselves, and of course, were using many colorful, descriptive English words (profanities) to express their pleasure/displeasure with their poker hands.

So here I am, trying to help my friends learn English, and after a while, out of the blue as we were shuffling the UNO cards, ready to start another game, Prezemec exclaims "I like this fokking game, sheet, it is goot dam game"! The three of us busted up laughing and joined in, exchanging profanities of our own ("Shuffle the fokking deck"! "This is goot sheet game"!) . A truly Joint Coalition experience!

I realized my Polish friends were keenly aware of the expletive phrases being thrown around by the young soldiers, and thought it would be fun to practice some of their own interpretations of colorful English phrasing. I'm sure they had heard these cuss words before, but in a learning mode, were intrigued by the soldiers' descriptive vocabulary. They proudly wanted to emulate the soldiers' usage of the newly acquired phrases, as if it were an honor to know these terms. I have to admit, they were quick f*#*n learners!

Teachers: Sorry, you're on your own with this one! Good luck. Just kidding! Have your students write out (individually) what they think my friend was trying to say in English. Then have the class share and compare what they came up with. Are you all able to come to a consensus? If you have an EL class, UNO is a great way to learn colors and numbers and a few select words. I'd skip a discussion on the cussing, unless you want to hear a lot of it coming from your students.


  1. too funny! thanks for sharing this one!

  2. Ohh, the mental image that created...had me spitting water at my monitor. Shall we say the colorful language of our poker playing guys should not be used as a teaching tool?

    Question though, have your polish friends taught YOU any of their more colorful language? Just wondering...

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