Early on in the curriculum, I taught (or tried to teach) my students various occupations, as was required. Amongst them were teacher, actor, actress, businessman, singer, footballer, and tennis player. When I said “tennis player” and indicated the picture in my students’ vocabulary books, one of the older men perked up.
“I am… tennis player!”
I asked “You play tennis?” and pantomimed swinging a racquet. He looked confused but with repetitions and increasingly frantic invisible-tennis-racquet swings, he caught on and nodded, repeating that he was tennis player.
“That’s great,” I said, “I used to play tennis too.” I non-verbally attempted to explain what I’d said with gestures to my chest and the area behind me (to indicate the past, of course) before my assistant jumped in and translated my statement.
“Oh! Well, we… should…. play.”
“Haha, I’d love to sometime, but I’m not very good.”
Well, two weeks or so have gone by and I’ve not stepped onto a tennis court, but today the same student explained his absence on Wednesday as being because he’d been competing in a tennis tournament, which he’d won.
I explained what “congratulations” meant and congratulated him, suddenly a little more nervous to be taking the court against him at some point in the vague future.
On a break later in the day, my assistant offered to take me to the basement to look at where we would be playing tennis. I explained I was not dressed for the sport and thus couldn’t play today and was greeted with confused looks but persistently beckoned to the basement.
“Hmm,” I thought, walking down the small, dark hallway. “This doesn’t look much like the passage to an underground basement tennis court to me.” Come to think of it, the Ministry’s regional office hardly seemed like the place to have a large tennis court in the basement.
My assistant opened the door for me into the rec room, where a ping-pong table stood. Several Georgians stood glancing proudly between me and the table, and it became clear there was a misunderstanding. They meant table-tennis, not tennis. I laughed; I can take the embarrassment of losing at ping-pong, at least that’s not sweaty, frustrating work that involves sprinting in very little clothing in the hot sun.
I’d like to play some of them in real tennis now that I know they have no experience in it. Just the sadist in me, I suppose.
Now I have to decide if it’s worth the time and confusion to correct their misconception about what a “tennis player” does for a living.