Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Far Side Cartoon

"AHHHHHH QUIT ASKING SO MANY QUESTIONS!" I'm sorry, I really am. I'll tone it down for today's blog post. I do appreciate your responses.

ESL students say funny things in English. It's true. They don't mean it of course, and they try hard, but that doesn't mean we can't find some joy in their statements that are, let's face it, a lot funnier than most native speakers will ever be. ESL students say profound things as well, and who doesn't need some good profundity? I guess I'm trying to convince myself that laughing at their innocence isn't cruel. But you know what? The little boogers laugh at me when I pronounce mandarin wrong in class. So they deserve it.

A few weeks ago in class, I passed out some Far Side Cartoons and asked my students to analyze and comment on what made the cartoon humorous. I, being an idiot, thought the assignment relatively easy; I was wrong. I spent the rest of class walking from one side of the room to the other explaining some relatively simple humor ("The dolphins are speaking Spanish! Dolphins don't speak Spanish in real life! It's funny! Why don't you get it!?"). Well, before I explained one cartoon to one group, they wrote a classic response. Here is the cartoon and their response:

"This is a funny story. Professor Schwartzman can understand what the dog say. He'll be dogs good friends. He can often communicate with dogs as he feel alone. In the future, human being can communicate with every animal. If you were alone, you should contact with animals. Animals will share your sorrow. You can relax."

Well, my interpretation goes something like this: "This cartoon is funny because Professor Schwartzman spent a lot of time making this breakthrough machine, only to discover that it's not a breakthrough : dog language is just as simple as it seems."

Something like that. I don't expect anything too complicated. I guess I find their response funny because it says more about Mr. Harrison than it does about the students. Every week, I get a "Why are you lonely," inquiry from someone; it has become pretty obvious I don't enjoy what I'm doing. So I give them a chance to comment on my melancholy and this is what they say: "Chilax Mr. H. You lonely? Get a dog man. Don't worry, some day science will let you talk with animals and then you'll never be lonely again. It don't matter if you don't like talking with us. When science comes around you'll be ok."

"I'll see you in the morning if nothing happens."


rjsturgeon said...

Far Side - classic!
ah, the good cartoons . . .

mamdosc said...

There is also additional humour in that barks actually CAN be translated, even though the translation is as simple as "bark" to "hey".

And it is also funny because the professor's face is dead serious.

I guess there may be even more to it.

I don't know who you are, but you could have done better. :P