Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In which my body becomes a classroom prop

Last week I was teaching my students vocabulary for physical descriptions of people. Lesson learned: Spaniards are not shy and do not sugar coat, especially when it comes to the human body.
Example 1: I was explaining the slight difference between skinny and slim (flaco y delgado). The other teacher decided to help me out. "For example," he said "Amy is slim, but she's not skinny." Twenty five pairs of eyes turned to me, looked me up and down, analyzed me from all angles. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think actual humans, present in the room, would be used as real life examples of body types in the U.S. We're a bit more sensitive.

Example 2: With their new vocabulary students had to write a description of a celebrity and the class had to guess who it was. I don't remember all the details nor the exact words, but want to take a guess who the red-headed, overweight singer was?
Maybe I'm a little worked up in Adele's defense because of this, but really? Look up at the drawing they had as an example for "overweight" and compare (contrast!) to Adele. Maybe it's my fault for not giving my students vocabulary for body types between slim and overweight (read: normal, average, beautiful), but I had no desire to argue with the student and draw any more attention to the debate.

Spain definitely doesn't take any shame in describing people, on both ends of the spectrum. Men can freely call other men handsome without accusations of being gay. When someone thinks you are good-looking, they generally tell you. This can be in the form of a coworker telling you you're especially guapa today, or random men on the street shouting at you as you walk by (aka piropos, but that's for another post). Here, it's just a part of life.

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