There’s a storm gathering. The clouds are dark and the winds are strong and I am afraid. I’m a Guangzhou teacher who must choose between my faith and my job, where by “faith” I mean my (apparently unfounded) belief that it should not be 23 degrees (that’s 73 degress Fahrenheit for all you wippersnappers, now get off my lawn) and raining in the middle of winter. And by “job” I mean teaching Chinese high schoolers the difference between bobsleigh, skeleton, and luge, which is exactly what I’m doing this week.
Some of the Olympic fever from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing must have spilled over into this year’s Games, because my students are surprisingly conversent on winter olympics topics. Some of them have even watched a winter olympics broadcast, which is totally foreign to me. Perhaps it are so popular among my students because the winter olympics nicely complement Chinese national values like competition, and constantly being in second place to a more powerful olympics, and ice dancing. Whatever the cause, they are much more informed about winter sports than I am. But I’m the native English speaker, so I’m the one who gets to spend 40 minutes at the front of the class telling them things they already know. You’re welcome, kids!
One area I actually can be helpful in is telling them the English names for the sports and the sports equiptment that the athletes use. But even there I don’t really have much to offer since most of the sports either have totally transparent names (“They put on skis and try to jump the farthest. It’s called ski jump.”) or ones which I can’t explain at all. Why is it called Nordic combined? I don’t know. Because it’s a meaningless sport that no one cares about except Nordic people. (Then why don’t they call them the Nordic Olympics, am I right???) I also cannot explain the names of skeleton or curling, except to say that they are also sports that they will never encouter if they come to America, except possibly in Canadian-friendly standup routines.
Really in retrospect I can’t really think of any essential information that I gave my students today. I did teach them the word “argyle” and show them a picture of the Norwegian curling team, though, so I guess not a total loss. Unlike the Winter Olympics.