R is for Redundant Encounters (Arabic Edition)

Finding a job is a little bit like finding a date. It all looks good on the screen but when they meet me in person, it all tends to go a little downhill from there… until it finally ends in a big, spectacular pile of good old-fashioned shit.

Luckily, with my amazing new job, they didn’t get a chance to meet me in person; they just had to listen to me over the phone and then….. yep, you got it… they hired me. My job is to teach English to people who are trying to complete a complex English exam to do masters in the U.S or for various kinds of immigration. There are many benefits of this job:

1. I can teach in my bed and in my PJ’s while the student thinks I’m in the office.

2. I can travel literally anywhere, as long as I don’t screw up the time difference for the classes.

3. I get to learn and talk to people from all over the world and learn more about them…

And it’s point number 3 that we shall be focusing on today.

Student – Good morning, Mr. Call-Egg-Ham.

I’ve heard Callaghan pronounced much worse, so I was kinda impressed.

Me – Good morning, Faram. How are you?

Student – Am I very well.

Me – Eh, are you?

Student – Am I very very well.

I think he’s just screwing up the word order there and wants to say “I am very well.” I hope he doesn’t mean it literally as a question that I’m expected to answer.

Me – Thanks, great. Where are you at the moment?

Student – On my phone.

I notice that I can see cars driving past his head.

Me – Are you using a phone for our English lesson?

Student – No sir, I use iPhone. Is 6. Is new phone.

Me – That’s great. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to use a phone. It is better to use a computer.

Student – No have. Is OK with a phone? I hear you lovely sir.

Me – Faram, are you driving?

Student – Yes sir. I am on the motorway.

Me – Faram, we can’t have our introduction English lesson when you are driving. This is dangerous.

Student – OK. Yes.

Me – Do you understand me?

Student – I can’t hear now so well, Call-Egg-Ham. I go into a tunnel.

Me – What ?

…….

…….

…….

Me – Hello… Faram…

Student – Yes, sir. I am here.

Me – Faram, we will have to reschedule our class. You need to be in a quiet place on a computer with a pen and a piece of paper.

Student – I have a pen here.

Me – You’re driving, Faram.

Student – OK, OK. I stop.

Me – No. No. We cannot have our class on the side of the road. This class is very important. You need this exam for immigration. It is a difficult exam. We must reschedule and you must be in a quiet place.

Student – OK, sir. I am sorry for make you mad.

Me – No problem.

This class took place about 6 weeks ago and I’ve never heard from Faram since. He has never shown up for any of his lessons. Maybe, he didn’t like me (virtually impossible because I’m adorable) or maybe he crashed his car. No idea.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Me – OK. So the topic for today is Crime and Punishment.

Student – Oh, we have a lot in Iraq.

Me – OK. Well, let’s explore some vocabulary first. When we talk about crime, we essentially have two types of crime. We have serious crime and then crime that is not so serious. For crime that is not so serious, we use an adjective beginning with P. Do you know this word?

Student – Is a prostitute.

Me – Not exactly. It’s petty crime. We have serious crime and then petty crime.

Student – OK.

Me – Can you give me an example of a petty crime?

Student – Rape.

Rapidly bang my head against the table to check I’m still breathing.

Me – No. That’s actually quite a serious crime.

Student – But a serious crime is like an explosion that kills many people, yes?

Me – Correct. So, we could call that a terrorist act. That’s a serious crime, OK, very good.

Student – Yes, but it depends on who your side is.

Don’t get involved. Don’t get involved. Don’t get involved…. just carry on.

Me – So, a petty crime would be vandalism, for example. Do you know what this is?

Student – Yes. Damage something.

Me – Excellent. And then we have different punishments for petty crimes and serious crimes. Can you give me an example of a punishment for vandalism?

Student – Death. They dead. Excuse me, or die.

Sweet Jesus. This is a mindfuck and it’s only 8.00 am. There’s a bowl of cornflakes on the desk, slowly absorbing milk.

Me – Well, OK. That is a possibility. But maybe that’s very extreme.

Student – It is very sad teacher. We are extreme here and it is not good.

Me – OK, so what would be a good punishment? A fine or community service, for example?

Student – Vandalism is not fine. Image someone in your home house who burn it… completely. Not fine. Not OK.

Me – Yes. I agree with you. Fine has two different meanings in English. It can be a noun or adjective. As an adjective – I am fine is the same as I am OK. But as a noun – this means when the police make someone pay money.

Student – Ah, OK. Understand.

I wish this student was like the cornflakes and slowly absorbed English…

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Me – Hello. How are you?

Student – I am good, sir. Thank you. How are you?

Fucking miserable – I almost got hit by a bus while dancing to Sia’s new album.

Me – I’m very good. Thank you. You missed our last lesson, so we have a lot to cover today, because we need to cover Week 4 and Week 5 together.

Student – My wife was having an abortion. I missed class.

For the native English speakers reading this, it’s important to understand, English is an incredibly tonal language. In some cases, the tone of our voice can indicate so much more than the choice of words we use. This is something learners struggle with. The exact same sentence can be friendly or rude depending solely on the tone. Other languages such as Russian or Japanese don’t have this issue – the words, exclusively illustrate the entire meaning. As students struggle with this – some screw up endlessly. Others choose to avoid the issue and, as is the case here, deliver the sentence in a completely monotone voice.

Do I congratulate him? Do I express my condolences? Do I start talking about Ireland’s social moral dilemma with this issue? No. I do what any professional would do – move on.

Me – OK. Are you and your family OK now?

Student – Yes, sir.

Me – Good, because if there is ever a medical issue with you or your family, I will always recover the lesson for you. I understand that English learning is not the only thing going on in your life.

Student – Thank you, sir. We are good.

I’m such an understanding person. I rock at my job. Time for a joke.

Me – But you know, there is nothing more important than learning English. It’s the most important thing in the world.

Student – I no agree, sir. But I understand your job.

You, Shane, are a fucking idiot and don’t deserve to teach.

Me – Hello. Nice to meet you. Welcome to your first lesson. Today we are just going to an introduction.

Student – I don’t think I need England lessons. I am good. I has good level.

Oh, fuck. One of these twats. It’s been a while. The “I know so much more than you” student. One of the most annoying brands of student.

Me – OK. Well I am going to help to pass this exam. This course is designed to help you pass an exam. I assume you have a good level already.

Student – Why?

Me – Sorry. What?

Student – Why?

Me – Why, what?

Student – How you know my level is good?

Me – I don’t.

Student – But you say, you know my level is good. How you know I have a good level, if you don’t teach me or know me?

OK, bitch. Time to be put into your box.

Me – I didn’t say I know that your level is good. I said, I assume your level of English is good. Do you know what the word, assume means?

Student – No.

Me – Then, trust me, you need this class. Do you have a pen?

Student – Yes.

Me – Let’s start with verbs……..

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Me – Farzin, where are you? There is a lot of noise.

Student – I am internet cafe.

Me – Oh, dear. I can hear the noise of the other people very clearly, it’s a bit hard to hear you.

Student – Oh. Computer…. it is…. bad.

Me – It’s broken?

Student – Very broked.

Me – OK. Well, let’s try to continue and we will see how we do.

Student – One moment sir.

Farzin literally roars the house down in Arabic and suddenly I hear absolutely nothing but a clear static sound.

Student – Is better sir?

Me – Yes. A lot. Wow, that was impressive.

Student – Cafe is my brother.

Me – No. No. The cafe is my brother’s.

Student – Yes, sir.

The class continues for about 15 mins then a pounding sound comes through my headphones. I yell out and rip the headphones from my ear socket. …

My eyes start watering and I can still clearly hear the sound coming from both headphones, which are now lying on the floor. I take a second to clear my eyes and pick up the headphones. Fuck Fuck Fuck. What happened.

Me – Farzin … HELLO… Farzin…

There is a lot of screaming and yelling. Oh, no. Terrorist attack in Cairo…. Oh, no. Farzin was adorable. Oh, no. Oh, no.

Nothing.

Me – Farzin… Hello… HELLO.

Nothing. I can hear yelling, lots of yelling. I hang up the phone. It’s too disturbing. I stand up. Go to the toilet. I realize I’m actually shaking a bit. Oh, no. He was so nice. It might have been just a connection error, those kinda old 90’s dial up problems… that could be it. We might have just been disconnected. It could be nothing. Shane, you’re such a drama queen. You just want to say, you were in a terrorist attack, you self-centered douche.

I go back to the computer. Farzin is offline. FUCK. Do I email head office? And say what? They will literally think you are an idiot. So I decide to email him and just be professional.

Me – Farzin you cut the call. There was a lot of noise. Is everything OK? I checked the news and see nothing about Egypt?

5 hours later at 2.00 am.

Student – Dear Shane. I am very sorry for losing the call. It was completely out of my control. There was a car drive into cafe. Very bad. A very stupid man. Everyone is OK. It is not on the news, because it is not particularly important.

Someone has used Google Translate to write this.

Student – We can reschedule the class again, if it is good for you. I’m sorry for the trouble. Thank you for you understanding.

This is simply a taster of what teaching English involves. Remember children – a teacher is for life and not just for Christmas.

Coming up next – Redundant Encounters – Irish Edition.