“Mingrelian traditional costumes (1881)” by Illarion Pryanishnikov — french-engravings.com. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Mingrelians — The best English teachers ever

Yesterday evening I was out for dinner at some friends from Georgia.
People from this small Caucasian country enclosed between Russia and Turkey are really unique: proud, strong, welcoming, friendly. There’s a lot to discover about Georgian culture, and I am especially focused on their food. I told my friend several times that I’m in love with their cuisine, which I consider my favourite one after Italian.
After the dinner, they told a story which once they had mentioned already, a story which made us laugh a lot. We thought that this story sounds like the plot of a short movie, or a novel, instead I don’t think it’s even known in the Western world, so I decided that it was worth sharing it.

The protagonist is a Georgian man from the Mingrelian community, a part of the population of Georgia with a very proud character and its own language.
For some reason, this man was in Russia, across the fall of the Soviet Union, exactly in some small village somewhere up in Siberia. When he was first offered a job, he refused; then they asked him whether he knew some foreign language that he could teach, so he showed a fake certificate of English language— something which was very easy to obtain there, at those times —and he became an English teacher.
However, why bothering to teach such a language to people who had no idea of how this sounds? And actually, he didn’t know any English, either.
Then he had the brilliant idea of teaching his native Mingrelian language. He even provided his students with a proper grammar book, which he asked his father to send over, with great surprise of the man who had never seen his son interested in learning anything.

Apparently nobody in that village has never heard a song or watched a movie in English and wondered why it didn’t sound at all like the language taught by that Georgian. Seven years passed before one of his students decided to give an English language exam at the university in Moscow.
When the pupil started to show her knowledge, the professors were lost. They called specialist of any possible language, even Chinese, nobody knew what that student was stuttering. Not surprisingly, since not even Georgians can understand that language.

There are people who live their life by following some way, and others who just made their own way. I have a good friend with an enviable ability to create his own business and achieve the best from every situation: for example he can pretend to be a journalist in order to get free access and special gifts at a wine festival. However when I saw this extraordinary man, when has been interviewed, I recognised the face of the guy who really doesn’t care. He used everything he knew best and he was proud of the most, something he was born with and didn’t make any big effort to achieve, to survive with dignity in a Russian village in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t really get whether he was or wasn’t afraid that somebody could unmask him, but I think that you really have not to care if you want to persist for seven years with such a crazy and brilliant idea.

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