Monday, May 21, 2007
"Mr. Sato's Family"
As part of my freelance work, I sometimes correct correspondence homework for my former company. One of the lessons in the lowest level course features a line drawing of a pleasant-looking family that the students are supposed to look at and use the given information to write about the family. This is a pretty basic exercise which allows the students to practice the simple present tense, family relationship words (mother, father, etc.) and possessive adjectives (his, her, etc.). It is meant to prepare them in part for a telephone call where they have to talk about themselves and describe their families.
Almost every report I get reads like the one I have transcribed below (note that I have left the errors intact):
"There are five people in Mr. Sato's family. They are Mr. Sato and his wife and son and daughter and mother. Hiroshi Sato is an accountant. He is 45 years old. He graduated from Waseda Univeristy. His wife's name is Kimiko. She is nurse. She is 40 years old. She graduated from Keio University. His son's name is Taro. He is a high school student. He is 16 years old. His daughter's name is Megumi. She is 8 years old. She is an elementary school student. His mother's name is Michiko. She is widow. She is 65 years old."
If you can imagine this sort of thing multiplied by about, oh, say 1000 then you have an idea of how often I correct this little basic family description with variations in types of errors. As an aside, a frequent error in this passage which did not occur in the one above is calling Michiko "a mother widow" or a "window".
The 1001st report comes from someone with a little imagination and adds in something interesting. The one below particularly tickled my fancy (again, I transcribe it with errors intact):
"There are five people in Mr. Sato's family. They are my debtor. But they disappeared from last month. So, I serch that family and inform some information. In this connection I offer a reward for find this family. In contrast to ten billion dollars. Hiroshi Sato was the accountant on Goldman Sax. He is 45 years old. He graduated from Waseda University. His wife's name is Kimiko. She was the head nurse on Tokyo University Hospital. She is forty years old. She graduated from Keio University. Hiroshi's mother's name is Michiko. She is an widow. So, she often went the host club in Shibuya. She graduated from Ma Institute of Technology. She is 65 years old. Hiroshi's son's name is Taro. He is the Keio high school student. He is sixteen years old. He is playboy. His sisters name is Megumi. She is an elementary school student. Her hobby is investing a money in stocks. She is eight years old."
When I get reports like the latter, I'm always partially amused and partially concerned at the sort of mind that would concoct such a story from a simple, boring line drawing. Mainly, I'm just glad for the break in the monotony.