Sure, maybe she loves her husband, but not as much as a certain side dish.

An unfortunate drawback to a lot of beginner-level foreign language textbooks is that their sample conversations are pretty dull. There are only so many possible topics you can weave into the story when readers still have a limited grasp of the target language, and the result is a glut of shallow chats about mundane slices of life.

This causes two potential problems. First, those boring conversations can kill a student’s level of interest and motivation, and second, by being painfully predictable, often you can guess what the characters are going to say without fully using the grammar and vocabulary you’ve been taught, and that lack of mental engagement makes it harder to retain.

Sure enough, this conversation in Japanese publisher Emile’s Crossbeam Basic 1 English textbook, which Twitter user @Meariyn shared a snapshot of, gets off to a pretty banal start. A man named John asks his acquaintance Martha how she’s doing. Martha says she’s fine, but that she had some trouble the day before, when she wanted to cook steak and fried eggs. But she didn’t have any eggs, so she…zzzzzzz

Hey, wake up! We’re just getting to the good part!

Martha: “But I didn’t have any eggs. I asked my husband to go and buy some eggs.”

John: “Uh-huh.”

Martha: “But on his way to the market, he had a traffic accident. He broke his leg and arm. He was taken directly to the hospital.”

Right there in the middle of the stereotypical English-for-beginners dialogue, tragedy strikes! John immediately offers his condolences, but it turns out that Martha doesn’t see the need for concern…at least not for the reason John does.

John: “Oh, no! That’s terrible! What did you do, then?”

Martha: “So, I made steak with boiled potatoes.”

John: “Martha, didn’t you worry about your husband?”

Martha: “Well, of course I did a little, but I really wanted to eat fried eggs.”

“I think whoever came up with this conversation was on drugs,” tweeted @Meariyn, and other Twitter users were shocked as well, reacting with:

“Why didn’t Martha go buy the eggs herself?”
“I think Martha is trying to murder her husband for the insurance money, and the ‘accident’ was her accomplice hitting her husband with a car on purpose.”
“She’s not right in the head.”
“I’d keep my distance from her if I were you, John.”

The shocking story even inspired a piece of fan art, showing Martha, praying in front of what appears to be her husband’s grave, but really thinking about mouthwatering fried eggs.

As morbid and disturbingly callous as the conversation may be, it’s actually not without academic merit, since it forces the reader to stay attentive and actually use their knowledge of the target language, not just everyday human interaction, to understand what’s going on. As challenging as it may be for textbook writers, when they can find a way to shake things up and tell a more compelling story that keeps learners on their toes, it’s definitely worth a certain type of admiration, and if this sounds like the sort of lesson you’d like to have or teach, Emile offers Crossbeam Basic 1 for purchase online here.

Source: Twitter/@Meariyn via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso (1, 2) (edited by SoraNews24)
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