You African’t Say That

, , , , , , | Learning | September 1, 2015

(It’s the first class of the year. We’ve got a drama teacher who’s completely new to the school and makes a big deal of having studied drama at a prestigious performing arts school in Perth, a city in the country’s west with a significant South African population. My girlfriend, who moved to Melbourne from Johannesburg two years ago and still talks with a noticeable Afrikaner accent to this day, is reading out some lines from a short acting scene the teacher brought in with him.)

Classmate: “But now, my dear, I must go.”

Girlfriend: “You can’t!”

(With her accent, it sounds like something completely different. Quite a few of us, me included, have a bit of a laugh at this. The teacher puts a halt to the acting and walks up to her on the stage.)

Teacher: “[Girlfriend], what did you just call him? That word isn’t appropriate for people your age to say.”

Girlfriend: “Um, I was just reading off the script. See here? It says, ‘You can’t!'”

(She points it out to the teacher, but her repeating of those words triggers another burst of laughter from the class.)

Teacher: “But that word isn’t pronounced like that. You’re getting the vowel sound all wrong.”

(At this point, my girlfriend starts looking like some bizarre combination of embarrassed and offended. The laughter stops. One of our friends, who’s just been laughing along with the rest of the class thus far, interrupts the teacher.)

Friend: “You do realise she’s not swearing at [Classmate], right? It’s just her accent. She’s from South Africa.”

Teacher: “Really? It doesn’t sound like any accent I’ve heard.”

(By this point, the classmate with whom she was acting at the start of the class has had enough, and he goes off at the teacher.)

Classmate: “Hey, [Teacher], you said you studied at [Arts School], right? If I’m correct, that’s in Perth. How the h*** can you spend that long living in Perth and not be able to recognise or understand a South African accent?”

(The teacher just dodged the question and ordered us back to our work. He was easily the worst drama teacher at the school, and I don’t think anyone was sad to see him go when he left the school at the end of the year.)

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