Friday, June 1, 2007

Mock Weddings!

I was teaching in an English center once where they had a three and half months, intensive, stay-in course. The finale of the course was a mock wedding where the sponsors and the press were invited guests and it was an occasion which exposed the students to foreigners where they could practise their English. Among the students was a former civil servant who was preparing to immigrate to Canada and several others who had similar dreams.

Four weeks before the real event, I began exposing the class to the vocabulary and culture related to weddings. For instance, I taught them the symbolism of the wedding ring – that its shape symbolizes the permanency of the marriage contract which implied that when they see an attractive man with a wedding ring, they should know that he’s been taken and vice versa. Thus culture and moral values came into play whenever appropriate.

Of course, an expected question was why the wedding dress is white in color? Each person in the class was given a role. The ‘father’ of the ‘bride’ was the oldest in the class. He was given the responsibility of giving a speech and a toast. A week before the ‘wedding’ one could feel the tension in the centre! Each person was memorizing his/her lines. The ‘groom’ and the ‘bride’ rehearsed aloud their wedding oaths as they marched up and down the long, narrow, hostel corridor! Every evening, for a week before the real event, we went over the ceremony and practised the wedding march from the corridor to the 'altar' to perfection.

I had meant for them to use things around their environment for the wedding –flowers plucked from the roadside, a white lace which was in the center to be used as the bridal veil, simple food like nuts and popcorn but no siree! The students wanted everything to be in style.

They rented real costumes from a wedding company, ordered a three tiered cake and had an expensive bridal bouquet!

They had a hilarious time and for some, it was their first encounter with Caucasians. To be able to converse and to be understood in English left them in a state of euphoria for days !

I know the experience left a deep mark in their language learning experience. As for me, I learnt further the importance of being sensitive to the culture of my students. I had given the role of recording the event to the second oldest student in the class who thought the task was beneath him but he didn’t tell me this. Instead, he nursed a grudge until after the course, when he spilled it out during one of our get togethers!

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