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Friday, June 10, 2011

How to learn English without realising it ...or...International communication and technology in the "before-INTERNET" years

Besides miniatures/dollhouses and all beautiful work and pictures...I think we all love interesting stories!
My last posts were about Australia and our family-friends overthere.
Growing up with an interpreter as mother and her being a person interested in everything coming around, as a child i was very soon confronted with foreign languages, but not troubled by that, as it came as something natural...simply belonging to our life. But there is one story which is quite outstanding and well remembered by many pupils who had to "endure" my mother as an English-teacher in High-school in the 70ties!
As she was not a professional teacher, her teaching methods were quite unorthodox many times, but always interesting! Pupils ( and her children of course) would get involved in stories, one would never know what they might turn into! This is just one example:
"THE SHIP THAT TURNED OVER- THE STORY OF THE FLYING ENTERPRISE" , a little grey booklet, written as a reading-practice for young students of the English language. Interesting, but ..well ..just one more book to read. WRONG!!! Mother's students knew her too well, not to let this opportunity slip away! A question to their teacher came up, of course without the students ready to imagine what would follow... "Do you think this is a true story? Would the Captain perhaps still be alive? "
Well, mother didn't hesitate long and made her class (!) write a letter to Lloyd's London in order to find out. I remember the agonizing days waiting for the answer, the fear they might not bother with some German pupils. But they did answer and provided a whole lot of information on the ship, the captain, their company. Of course all students had to read through all the material, but it had become so interesting that everybody completely forgot, that in fact they were LEARNING English- just by the way!
Letters to Captain Carlson of the "Flying Enterprise" followed, he answered immedeately and really kindly made his way into the hearts of the young students! Photos followed, and many letters were exchanged and - this brings us to technology before the "internet-aera",  Captain Carlson was an amateur radio operator and mother's class had the opportunity to really talk with him , because another teacher of the school shared the same hobby and let the whole class come to his home to be able to speak to "their" captain! And then ...write the next letter and wait for the next letter! 
In the early 70ties, there were no computers, no internet, no cellphones, Skype , emails...not even TV in every house...what a difference! Although I wouldn't want to miss the internet- no way!!! - I do miss the letters, with their nice stamps, the "air" of far away countries,  the paper, the smell, the question if it was a good or a bad letter, the joy about thick letters with many pages to read, the waiting time for letters to arrive! 
Well, back to normal now...! If interested , here are some links to read about the above true story...which seems to continue until now, concerning the cargo of the sunken ship! 

(Henrik) Kurt Carlsen (1914? - 7 October 1989)Wikipedia 

SS Flying Enterprise


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