Sex song in German exam causes upset

MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 15:48 19/11/2012
Wise Guys

LOST IN TRANSLATION: The members of German a cappella group Wise Guys.

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Teachers and students are shocked that a song of a sexual nature was used for a listening exercise in a year 12 German language exam.

The exam, held across the country last week, included the song Relativ by German group Wise Guys.

It included the lyrics (translated to English) “You are nicer than my neighbour and I expect in bed, I could do with you relatively much”.

Some students were so perplexed by the song they left the exam in tears while others reacted by laughing in disbelief, two German teachers who have complained to NZQA said.

Warwick Gibbs, a German teacher with 40 years experience and who has marked national papers in the past, says the song was inappropriate for his students because of the sexual nature of the lyrics and that a song was used instead of spoken text.

He has never come across a song in an exam and says it is a contrast with the NZQA standard which asked students to “demonstrate understanding of a variety of German spoken texts on familiar matters”.

“Since when was spoken texts a song?”

Students were asked to write what the song was about and to describe the man and woman mentioned in the lyrics.

Another German teacher, who did not want to be named, said students were asked for the inferred meaning which could have resulted in answers such as “she must be good at dancing, because when she dances it makes him hot” or “he likes to watch her, so maybe she’s a stripper”.

It was “totally inappropriate” for year 12 students, she said.

“It also sounded as if it had been recorded in a fish bowl; the echoing was so great that I even found it difficult to hear.”

She listened to it three times and still couldn’t understand all of what was said.

“I’m their teacher and I’m struggling to find the meaning,” she said.

“It makes us as teachers feel incapable. We can’t prepare our students.”

Both teachers received no warning that a song may be used in the exam so couldn’t give their students a heads-up.

NZQA deputy chief executive Richard Thornton said the song was chosen “as it was felt it would engage the candidates”.

“The song was about 'topics of personal and/or community interest' as the standard requires,” Thornton said.

The first stanza was translated to help orient the 458 students who sat the exam, he said.

“The recording was done professionally and the lyrics are clear and easily heard, with no interference on the recording.”

Thornton said the song was chosen with 16 and 17 year olds in mind.

Despite the sexual connotations, students were just confused by the song in general, one teacher said.

“The students said they had no idea there was going to be a song in there and wondered why we hadn’t done anything in class.

“They made it impossible for Kiwi kids to pass. They’ve really directed it for native speakers to get excellence grades,” she said.

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Gibbs said the paper was “astonishing”.

“This was never going to be easy to understand, especially when there are backing vocals plus music, both of which can affect the hearing of vital words.”

Some students would have given up or under-performed and the exam would undoubtedly influence some to drop the subject next year, he said.

Other language exams were yet to take place and Spanish and French teachers were anxious of what to expect, Gibbs said.

Thornton would not say if songs were to be used in any other exams this year.

The teachers were encouraging other German teachers to complain to NZQA before the papers are marked.

“I feel like we have to do something for the kids so it doesn’t happen again next year.”

- Stuff

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