Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Friday, February 17, 2012
How can Agatha Christie be used to teach foreigners English?
It's a crime against our language to use the writer's wooden characters and dialogue in the classroom.
People identify with Harry Potter in a way they will never identify with those creaky museum pieces, Hercule Poirot, above, and Miss MarplePhoto: ITV
"Mon dieu, Hastings! Here is a case to test the little grey cells. I read in my paper that a boat-load of foreign nationals has docked at Dover. Half of them are white-haired spinsters with handbags, the other half are middle-aged men with waxed moustaches. They are addressing custom officials as 'old chap’ and have asked to be directed to the nearest tea shop. Etonnant!’’
No, this is not a literary spoof, but a preview of forthcoming attractions, if the latest news from the lunatic fringe of the education world is to be believed. It seems that foreigners keen to improve their English are going to be invited to hone their skills on the works of Agatha Christie.
Twenty of her most famous novels, including The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Murder at the Vicarage, are being rewritten in simplified versions so that they can be used in the classroom to teach non-native English speakers how to read and speak the language. The new editions, to be published by Harper Collins, will be accompanied by scholarly notes placing the stories in their historical and cultural context.
After that, presumably, students will be examined on what they have learnt. O for a preview of the first examination paper. “Where in an English village can one buy arsenic over the counter? Is afternoon tea served in the library or conservatory? Are murderers more commonly vicars, butlers or actresses called Myrtle?’’
If it wasn’t so funny, it would be rather sad: a great country, with a rich history, using the patron saint of Little England to promote itself to the world. I don’t mean to decry Agatha Christie. Her mastery of the whodunnit justifies her sobriquet, the Queen of Crime. But her prose is as insipid as her plots are sinuous Full piece at The Telegraph