Coldplay = ice hockey?

One of the most important skills in learning anything, including a second language, is figuring out what’s important to know and what can be safely ignored. Students wanting to know is a good thing; I don’t want to discourage that. Maybe I’m just explaining it badly.

Yesterday’s lesson had a lot about pop music, and the activities and our extra discussions were full of singers and groups and songs and words and music. Today’s lesson included a story in which a young woman and young man met while a particular song was playing – “It’s by Coldplay. It’s called Yellow”. Coldplay and the song then play no further part in the story. They could have met while any other song was playing, or in total silence.

A student asked “What is ‘Coldplay’?”. I turned back to yesterday’s lesson and said approximately “Yesterday’s song was called Imagine. It was by ‘John Lennon’. This song is called Yellow. It’s by ‘Coldplay’. Who is ‘Coldplay’?” He said “A singer”. I held up one finger and said “A singer? or …” and held up three, four, five fingers “a group?” (I don’t know how many are in it!). He said “A group”. I said “Right, it is this song sung by this group”. All right then. So I thought. I turned to another student or the class in general, then noticed him using his phone. I glanced back and found he was translating Coldplay into his language. 

Most likely, ‘translating’ a name like Coldplay into another language simply gives a transliteration. Or it might give the actual word for cold followed by the actual word for play. Or it might give ice hockey.

Another skill is figuring it out for yourself. The article about Imagine called it “an idealistic song about peace and the hope for a better world”. The same student wanted to know what idealistic meant. I covered it with my finger and said “Leave it out. Whether idealistic means, this is a song about peace and the hope for a better world. I’ll tell you more later.” After we’d talked about the song, I said “Is peace a good idea?” “Yes.” “Is the hope for a better world a good idea?” “Yes.” “This song is about those good ideas. It is idealistic.” Soon after, I saw him translating that into his language, too. This doesn’t always work, though; a longer word can incorporate a completely unrelated shorter word. But it’s almost always the best place to start.

(PS another post about another student who wanted to know.)


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