Today in school (if you don’t know, my apprenticeship is assisting a Teach for India fellow, teaching English and/or History), the teacher read a poem to the class, called “Eletelephony”.
By Laura E. Richards
Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant,
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone –
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)
Howe’er it was,
He got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee –
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)
After reading the poem aloud and having the students point out all of the nonsense words, the assignment was to write a short poem. I was inspired, so I wrote this poem:
There was a girl named Libby,
Who was trying to learn Hindi
She said रहा and not रही
And now she feels so silly
(For those not familiar with Hindi, रहा (“rahā”) and रही (“rahī”) are verb endings to indicate that one is continuing to do something. रहा is for a male speaker and रही is for a female. While trying to say “I am learning Hindi”, I accidentally said रहा, the irony of which I am only recognizing now)
Much like the speaker of “Eletelephony”, I find myself constantly tongue-tied with the intricacies of the Hindi language. But, even though I was embarrassed at the time of the aforementioned mistake, I realize that the students weren’t laughing at me because I was dumb or pathetic, but because it was funny. The 7th graders studying the poem weren’t mad at the speaker in “Eletelephony” for mixing up the words. When asked how the poem made them feel, they all responded “It was funny” or “It made me laugh” or “I was confused”. But despite the crazy words and the fact that English is their 3rd language, they all understood that the elephant was trying to get to the telephone. So, no matter how much I mess up or an unsure about a word, as long as I keep trying, my point will get across.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I hear the telephant ringing.