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Breaking the ice!    by Mike Mills


Being a lecturer at a famous London College, I used to teach English to students from countries throughout the world.


Each session began with a new class of about 18 students who had never met each other before. So to start off, and to break the ice, I would tell them a little about myself, trying to add a little humour.


And as I was fairly good at guessing nationalities from people's accents, I told them I would go round the class, very briefly chat with each student and then guess that person's nationality. Of course I was quite often wrong and after feedback the result could be hilarious (and just occasionally slightly embarrassing!).


I recall that in one new group there were two young ladies who looked very similar to each other and who looked Japanese. They asked: "What about us?"


I replied "Firstly, I think you're twins." They looked surprised but replied that I was perfectly correct, and then they giggled and asked: "... and where are we from?"


I answered: "That's easy. You're obviously Brazilian!" At this there was a roar of laughter from everyone - but the girls looked dumbfounded!


"How did you know?" they asked.

"Well," I said, "your looks are definitely Japanese - but your accent is undoubtedly Brazilian!"


From that moment on, I had the class eating out of my hand!


Footnote: I wrote this a number of years ago: The world has changed since then and most countries now have residents from various countries.

Also, nowadays there are strict guidelines and I doubt if my approach would work or be acceptable!  And it might even result in a ticking-off  - or worse - by the Head of Department!

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