Sophia's Peace Work

Monday, May 24, 2004

Not Your Typical English Conversation Oral Exams

1) This conversation took place between two students for their Oral Exam. One played the role of an American and one an Iraqi. (The English has been corrected)

Iraqi – In you opinions, why did the Americans come to Iraq? Was it really to free the Iraqi people?
American – No. I think, and the whole world knows, that they came for oil.
Iraqi – Do you think they treat the Iraqi people well?
American – No, I don’t think so. How did you feel and how did Iraqis feel when you saw the corpses of the four contractors who were killed and mutilated in Fallujah?
Iraqi – Islam prevents this even in animals but it is not fair to kill seven hundred people because of the killing of four men. Why? Are Americans expensive and Iraqis cheap? What was your feeling when you saw the torture in the prisons?
American – We all feel sorry …. My last question to you is what do you want to say to the American people?
Iraqi – Leave my country. I will only remember you as an invader. This is my homeland. There is no state without independence. And Islam forbids this injustice and the aggression. We are Muslims believing in God and God will be with us and your end in life will be hard … like the crack of doom.

…. And please don’t say “I’m sorry” to any of the things that have been done because you don’t feel it and it is not enough. I really hate these words when you say them.

Most of my students chose fairly innocuous topics for their final oral exam in my English Conversation test. But three in particular stand out for me. The one above featured Maarb who when I started teaching the class told me very politely that although she liked me very much, she didn’t want me to teach her.

Another conversation test involved some of the best and brightest students in my class. It featured one student who drew a depressing picture of Iraq with a big “X” across it. This is what she thought of the future of Iraq. Four other students came along and drew pretty pictures depicting love, hope, peace and happiness and tried to convince the first student that if people were filled with these feelings and ideas that a New Iraq was possible.

Another student did her oral exam alone. She was the last student I tested and I’ll always remember her. Her eyes are large and luminous and there was always a look of sadness on her face. Her oral exam was the recounting of the kidnapping of her six-year old brother who had been snatched several weeks earlier (a not uncommon occurrence in the New Iraq). She told of the long and difficult journey that she and her family travel to eventually secure his release (which involved the family paying out several million Iraqi dinars to the kidnappers).

I asked her if they went to the police. “Yes, we told them,” she said, “But all they did was tell us that if they caught any suspicious people, they would let us know.”

To make sure the family paid quickly, the kidnappers told them that the boy had become gravely ill and if they wanted him back alive, they better pay up soon. Once the money was handed over … late at night in one of the more dicey parts of the city… they waited until finally they received a call from across town that the boy had been found wandering barefoot, crying for his mother. He didn’t know where he was and couldn’t remember where he lived. All he had was the phone number to his parent’s house. Fortunately, the kidnappers had lied. He was perfectly healthy.


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