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Lost in Translation

I teach second language learners. We are having half days this week. School in the morning, and report cards and parent-teacher conferences in the afternoon. The combination of freedom and stress is a bit distracting to the students. This can lead to unusual language confusions.

The whole school assembles on the playground every morning, weather permitting, and we all salute the flag together. Then we move to our seperate classes in an orderly manner. Fifth graders — being the eldest kids — are last to file off the playground. My class is usually last, period. That is because mine is the closest room and if we left before the others they would have a traffic jam in the hall as we paused to enter our room.

Anyway: the playground was empty save my class. The Principal and Assistant Principal were waiting by the fence for us to pass. Most mornings they offer encouraging words to the students as they walk by. Yesterday my class was standing in two impressively straight lines. I said them them, “Shall we go?” They respond crisply and in unison, “Yes!” I was a bit taken back. This wasn’t something I taught them. Not only that, they didn’t move.

I repeated, “Shall we go?” Again, crisply and in unison they shouted, “Yes!” And again, they remained stationary. I was at a bit of a loss. We now have the undivided and highly amused attention of both of my supervisors, and I am looking impressively ineffectual. Again I said, with perhaps a bit of edge to my voice, “Shall. We. Go?” Even more loudly and emphatically my students shouted, “Yes!”

I closed my eyes, took a slow deep breath, then said very softly, “Well then, move!” My two line leaders looked very startled, said “Oh!” and stepped lively. The rest of the class followed. As we passed by, our waiting school administrators offered their standard morning encouragments, but I couldn’t help notice they did it with smirks on their faces.

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives on The Big Island in Hawaii. When she is not hanging out with Amoeba, she is likely teaching or sewing. Or she could be cooking, taking photographs, or even writing. But if she's not doing any of that, she's probably on Facebook or tinkering with her blog.


  1. LOL! Such a good story.
    I wanted to thank you for checking out my blog for the marathon, then taking the extra step of checking out my much neglected poetry blog. Your visit encouraged me to get off of my poetic hindend and start posting poetry again. Thanks.

  2. I am afraid I am so dense it is “lost in translation’!! I dont get it. Were they waiting for direction?! I am so slow sometimes I dont even believe I am related to the rest of you!! Much love to you, Caryl

  3. Caryl — they were waiting for direction, and they seemed no to realize that “shall we go” was an invitation to move.

    Speaking of last in translation, you never did send me the email so I could replace your address. I remember your name, but not your affiliation — you change providers so often.

  4. and I am getting ready to change again!!! You know no one can make me happy for long. I have VERY HIGH standards. (iwlldropyoualinewihtmyaddress) love ya, C

  5. You’re teaching a room full of Amelia Bedelia’s! Specificity seems to be the rule of the day. Funny as always.

  6. That is exactly the kind of thing that would happen to me if I were to teach. HAHA! Thanks for sharing such an enjoyable post. c”,)

  7. Isn’t that just the way it goes. Whenever you have an audience and really want to impress, that is when everything will go awry! Nice recovery teach! šŸ™‚

  8. Quilly,
    perhaps you taught them so well that they were answering and acting correctly, as in, “Shall we go?”
    the next response would be,”Then let’s go” or “off we go then.”

    But asking them if they want to go is different than telling them to go.

    My point isn’t that interesting or funny but I’m too lazy and tired to change it now. pooh!

    Good job at Doug’s today. I didn’t catch that you were posting there until just now, having not been to your blog ’til now and when I went to Doug’s earlier, I saw the title, “Substitute Teacher” but didn’t read what it was about, just jumped in on “habit.”

    I missed a lot of fun, as I did take the time to skim through and see how it went. Looks like a good time had by all.



  9. i speak Spanglish, saids Joe and others…lol…they have fun with my pronounciation and often i don’t understand some, confusion and much smirking with language, this i understand…but it goes both wouldn’t believe how often i say Que? (what?) since i don’t understand english you see, lol..

  10. Many a moments at school I had moment slike that. the teahcer asks something and I have no clue that an action, besides my response is asked for šŸ™‚
    Must be quite weird to have people looking ta you, doing nothing šŸ™‚
    sweet kids!

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