One nice thing about being a conversational English teacher is the lack of grading. School started at the beginning of September, and I'm currently grading my first writing assignment. My students have grammar classes where they write more than enough, so I rarely make them grab their pens.
Writing assignments are a good punishment method. I don't think I'm allowed to take them on a field trip to a castle torture chamber - it crossed my mind, there's one about five miles away. However, the threat of writing usually gets the kids in line. They're smart.
My most advanced class, however, has a difficult English exam to prepare for. It's a state administered exam here in Hungary, and it seems to be their way of making up for torture chambers being just museums in the modern day. I saw a sample of the test, and I had trouble with it. This class is being given writing assignments by another teacher, but they give them to me to grade (one of the negative parts of having English as my mother-tongue). It strikes me as a sort of good-cop, bad-cop situation.
This assignment is about writing letters of advice to people. They're short and easy to grade, except they're written in a different language:
That pesky island continues to make my life difficult. I have to be very careful letting the ink out of my red pen, because it may not be a mistake. The true exam will be graded by Hungarians - seems logical, they're experts on English - who will be looking for British spellings and phrases.
Have you got...? Correct.
Saying a sentence in 35 words that could be said in five? Correct.
God bless America for shortening and simplifying everything except for the word elevator. How did the English call dibs on "lift"?
I'm counting the hours until I grade some of my other student's papers, I'll simply write "payback time". However, this particular class is full of hard-working students who always behave. "Be strict," I was told, but that's easier said than done.
Perhaps my comments at the bottom of the assignment will read something like this:
"Well done! Sorry I crossed out 90% of your words - twice. I changed my mind because they could be correct in British English. This assignment would be much easier if you were in America, because you would only use 1/3 of the words, and they would be easier to spell. Tough break that England's closer. If I were you, I'd try to write about elevators next time."
On the plus side, I can put a big, fat "F" at the bottom of every paper. The grading system isn't the letters A - F like in the United States. Instead, they get "marks," and they're the numbers 1 - 5.
They'll ask, "Why do all of our assingments have an F written at the bottom? Also, where is my mark?"
"It stands for funny," I'll answer, "funny because you didn't get upset when you saw it. And who's this Mark that everyone keeps talking about?"
Hungarian word of the day: Lift (pronounced Leaf - t) - take a guess what it means, even the Hungarians beat me on this one. The only consolation is "taking the elevator to the fourth floor" is probably something like problémamegoldóLIFTképessége. But now I'm just making guesses.