After last week’s “when it rains it pours” posting on Facebook (pictures of my drenched clothes and bags, the result of a torrential downpour on my way to the bus stop), this week I enjoyed our “once in a blue moon” sighting. As you might suspect at this point, I also spent a great deal of time looking at what curriculum writers call our social language — specifically idioms.
For the last two weeks, I’ve “worked my butt off” (oh! if only this were not metaphorical) focusing my volunteer activities on helping a talented group of teachers and trainers with what we hope will be adopted as a radical reform of Costa Rica’s approach to teaching English. The idea is to teach the language from first grade to the day of graduation with a focus on how English really is used in this country — tour guides in national parks, hotels, restaurants, call centers, and as resources for numerous U.S. based companies with a presence here such as HP and Amazon. Peace Corps’ involvement at this point is a couple of us providing input on word choice for topics plus writing the first draft of several of the syllabuses.
Primarily, the curriculum writing gig is an eight-hour day followed by a brief break and then more writing when I get to my room at night. A big task, yes, but I really didn’t “bite off more than I can chew” as I find locating the right function to go with the chosen goal and the right topic to convey the needed functions and the right vocabulary to be used in the sample sentences much like a large puzzle and rather fun. And in the midst of the work I did get some pleasant surprises. I practiced yoga with a friend who is the director of training at PC and teaches a class in a side room of a very tranquil Asian restaurant. I also worked out with my host who has a trainer come to her house a couple of days a week. (All of this physical activity was led in Spanish, by the way, but body parts were one of the first cluster of words we tackled in my first months here, and I can watch what to do in multiple languages.)
One other treat several of us allowed ourselves was an early evening movie — “Intensamente” — which is Pixar’s “Inside Out”. Literally translated that’s “fiercely” or “intensely” and I had a rather intense reaction when I discovered my treat was going to be in Spanish with no subtitles. But I shouldn’t have “given it a moment’s notice” since it was basically a cartoon and the animation easily allowed me to pick up the basic “plot” points. However, the word play may have been lost on some of my Costa Rican counterparts. For instance, the “train of thought” loses something in translation as does the scenes where her head was “in the clouds.” Oh those tricky idioms …
I actually love a clever turn of a phrase. But when you are put on the spot as the expert (i.e., a native English speaker) it’s a bit intimidating. So to be “better safe than sorry” I googled idioms (and yes, I did add that word to the vocabulary list for the Unit on Safety in the Digital World). Hence, you are receiving this update chock full treasures.
In other highlights, I continued the birthday celebrations into week two, wrote a proposal for a national English Awareness Campaign, saw the launch of the new website for English Festivals that so many of us volunteers invested hours into making truly a valued resource for the country, planned for my first week of co-teaching with my incredibly creative counterpart (who took modes of transportation to new places with her work on the Concentration game in the photo at right that we’ll be playing with students) and bought myself a chair in which I can continue writing curriculum.
As a “count my blessings” on this Sunday evening with a week full of new experiences ahead, I rest in the belief that indeed “practice makes perfect” and I will eventually learn Spanish at the fluency level in which I am now writing for English speakers.
Ever the one to “push the envelope”, I carry on, firm in the belief that this “old dog can learn new tricks” after all.