Chilean Mine Rescue

OK, I teach German not Spanish.  What’s happening in Chile right now officially doesn’t fall under my linguistic jurisdiction.  But I don’t care; we’re touching on it tomorrow in class.  This is just too big a party to miss.  My experience is that if you have the right pictures to work with, you can get your point across no matter how simple the phrasing you use.  (Note: My lesson plan I’m laying out assumes the use of an LCD projector in the room, so if you don’t have one you’d need to check one out)

First of all, I need to set the stage with what is going on.  The New York Times has a great interactive graphic which gives an overview of the drill site and capsule setup is

Once that’s established, I’m going to roll with the Big Picture (a photo journalism site I often use to talk about culture, the world, etc.)

If students aren’t aware of what is going on, there was a previous photo essay a month previous that showed what the early rescue efforts looked like.  I probably will show about 10 or so shots from this one before moving to the current pictures:

 The current pictures, which are being updated as more miners come out has some wonderful shots of the rescue effort, the families, the miners etc. :

With my German I students I’m likely going to focus on basic vocab such as happy, excited, feels, etc.  to describe the pictures that they are seeing.  One nice thing about pictures is that when you want to say something that is a bit out of bounds that they don’t know about (mine, capsule, cable, mineshaft, etc.)  you can use the word and point to the picture.  My LCD projector is set up to shine directly on my white board so I just draw the proper German word on the side with an arrow pointing to the picture.  Less is more, of course, and I tend to tell a very basic tale focusing more on my students’ reactions to what is happening than trying to cover all of the pictures.  The pictures exist to provoke a reaction, and the real conversations happen in processing the reactions. (What is the first thing that you would do after coming up?  What would you miss the most?  How would you like to ride in that capsule? etc.)

With my more advanced German students I’m going to get into some of the backstories, many of which can be found at the New York times Lede blog which is covering this event:

There are some great stories about the miners here:

  • One is a former Futbol player who was presented a soccer ball signed by the national team, and who kicked it around for a bit. 
  • The rescuers are doing a chant “Chi Chi Chi. Le Le Le.”  When watching a feed I heard that chant followed by something like “Domineros au Chile”  (Yeah, I mangled that; I’ll have our Spanish teacher help me out) I think we might be doing that one in class a few times.
  • The juicy story, of course, is the miner whose wife didn’t know about his mistress until they both showed up at the family camp to claim benefits (the wife, for the record is pretty ticked and is not greeting him in person).  I imagine some of my students will suggest he should have stayed in the mine.
  • The country of Greece has offered a free all expenses paid vacation to the beaches of Greece for all of the miners to help them relax from their ordeal
  • A couple musicians in Madrid are composing 33 different songs in honor of each the miners. 
  • My personal favorite is about the miner who told his young sister she could help him out by doing her best in school while he was trapped.  When she greeted him at the rescue site she reported that she not only was getting good grades, but brought along her notebook and pencil to prove it.

In short, I think we have a responsibility as language teachers to allow our students to recognize how they are citizens of the world.  I love how the world is embracing something like this that brings us together and I want in on that party.


5 responses to “Chilean Mine Rescue

  1. VERY cool, Nathan! Don’t know whether you have this, but it turned out that Russia has a big picture site too–I wonder whether it’s the same for German. The cool thing is that there are captions on all the pictures, in Russian. I found it by searching in Cyrillic for a headline that I’d missed. It’s — so maybe there is an equivalent site with “ge” or whatever appendage is used for Germany.

    Anyway, I think it’s a great story, and I’m glad that you are sharing how we can all party for joy that the miners are getting out! Here’s the Russian picture blog:


  2. No such luck for me. Throwing in the “.de” suffix gives me an “Esoteric incense shop” whose site is currently down. Darn. Could have used some esoteric incense.

    That said, there is a “translate” button that uses Google translate to render the text in whatever language I want. That doesn’t give me a good text, but does make a good screen if I don’t want my students to read the English while still feeding me keywords.

    Viva la Chile! (Probably mangling it again there, but there you have it)


    • I think Russians have less guilt about copyright law…if you look at the pictures you linked and at the ones on the Russian site, they’re all the same…


  3. Chi Chi Chi! le le le!! Los min er os de Chile!! (the miners of Chile!)

    (I believe that this is a take off on the cheer used by the Chilean futbol team in the World Cup…but may have been around long before that!)

    CNN has a video front and center that shows the arrival topside of each of the miners…lovely lovely words..just music…and several incredible clips…

    Sometimes…truth IS better than fiction…and this is one of those times.

    Not only does this offer the world a glimpse into the beautiful world of the strength, faith and passion of the Chilean people, it offers us each a reminder that each of us is capable of incredible feats, one small step at a time….especially when we work together, focus on the goal rather than rewards or recognition, and offer our individual gifts.

    It is a reminder that good things do happen. A reminder that sporting events are not the only things that unite people. A reminder to look outside of our own windows…because although they may not be as technologically-orchestrated as this rescue…real people with real problems in their real lives are living, loving, overcoming and celebrating every day around the world.

    Besides that…it makes me happy to know that Michele’s students and my students (and who knows how many other teachers’ students?) are in the same place today….

    with love,


  4. Boy yesterday certainly went well. All of my classes went really well and were really into the Chilean mine rescue, but the best part was with a German II class where I had been been forced to really run strict the past week as they were just pretty out of control. That was my fault ultimately, I wasn’t as strict with the rules last year and they were playing to my discipline level last year and I was needing to re-establish a routine this year. Several parent phone calls, tight rule-calling in class, rearranging seats frequently. Not super fun, tough to do, but needed.

    But yesterday instead of a tug-of-war we got to forget about ourselves and focus on other people, their ordeal, and the great nation that rescued them. One of my frequent blurters/distractors is a heritage Spanish speaker, and I was able to make him the superstar for the day translating Spanish phrases and messages that cropped up in the pictures. Overall a great day of celebration, but also of healing for that class and building up on common ground. Wonderful day.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s