View Full Version : Obama's speech is too hard

February 5th, 2009, 16:46
My JTE wanted to use Obama's speech (or some of it) for the third year JHS because we've run out of textbook and they seem to like Obama.

Unfortunately it's too bloody hard.

She asked me to find something easier (not necessarily too easy, i can translate bits and whatever but not difficult concepts) but still topical.

I said I had no idea but I'd ask you.

Do you have any ideas?


February 5th, 2009, 17:10
Maybe you can do some of the pull quotes from the speech and different inagural speeches through time and have them guess who said what. If the vocab isn't too hard in some.

Lincoln “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

FDR: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

JFK: “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

February 5th, 2009, 17:14
I'll look over some speeches myself, but I think you're right -- it's going to end up being too difficult. You could paraphrase, or take out components of sentences, or something like that, perhaps.

I might suggest, though: how about you giving small talks about American politics and society? Talk about what the big issues were in the election, and what the big issues are now. Abortion, gay marriage, taxes, the war in Iraq, etc. I seem to recall that you're Australian (sorry if I got that wrong) -- if so, you could also add in "and here's how this issue plays out in Australia".

Anyway, I'll keep looking and see if I can find some excerpts which might be workable for JHS 3rd years.

re: Saitaman --
HUH? I thought at first you must have been sarcastic, but then I reread and it seemed like those were serious suggestions. ... I'm pretty sure that those quotes are well beyond their ability to comprehend.

February 5th, 2009, 17:19
sorry, it was a typo.

February 5th, 2009, 17:24
and you can always shorten them: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." and "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."

February 5th, 2009, 19:02
And you think they will know who lincoln, FDR and JFK are?

February 5th, 2009, 19:06
Paraphrasing sounds like a good idea.

February 5th, 2009, 19:37
And you think they will know who lincoln, FDR and JFK are?

Some of my HS students know some of the big presidents, but you can make it muliple choice or you can give them the quote and have them guess is it Obama or not Obama, and when it isn't Obama, tell them who it is.

February 5th, 2009, 20:02
My kids seem reasonably well-informed about US history and presidents. Heck, one kid was able to explain (in English) the whole Columbus thing, based on the prompt of why Native Americans are also known as "Indians". She wasn't the only one who knew that, either.

And yeah, Dombay: I recommend making the goal to communicate ideas, and/or to paraphrase. You can use the real quotes as a reference. For example, one recurring theme in Obama's speeches is cutting down on the partisan divide. You can introduce "red America" and "blue America", talk about the parties (showing them when they were in power, who their famous presidents were, etc.), then bring that up. And so on: just grab an interesting section and rewrite it in simpler English.

February 5th, 2009, 20:28
One of my students was talking about lincoln, john adams, george washington and I was a bit stunned. I thought, "How the hell does he knows this?"

February 5th, 2009, 21:25
He's not all that easy to paraphrase either. 3 pages of not getting to the point then you're at the end.

Thanks for the suggestions guys!

February 5th, 2009, 23:41
Just have them say "Yes, we can." I'm pretty sure that's all a lot of my 3nenseis can do. One didn't even know what "high school" meant. I guess she won't be going. (I'm jealous you still get to teach yours; mine apparently need less English exposure as the exams approach)

February 5th, 2009, 23:50
I know the Japan times sucks. But today it had an Op-Ed about how/why the English education in Japan lacks.

February 6th, 2009, 01:11
Just give them Bush's speeches, they are probably a lot easier, plus the irony would be pretty hilarious.

February 6th, 2009, 01:24
i've pulled out a couple passages for my adult classes and most of them react the same way, "this is way toooo hard!".

i think part of it is because the speech references a lot of american history.

if anything, i'd try to find audio of it for pronunciation purposes, and then maybe a vocab list to supplement it. that's why all the japanese like his speeches anyways. when they read it on paper they';re like "WTF", but when they hear obama's articulation and rhythm, that's what blows them away