Hard labour cracked in prison

2nd April 1999 at 01:00
YOUNG Greek publisher Victor Papazissis was sharing a jail cell with 10 other political prisoners when he dreamed up a unique way to teach English.

Papazissis, one of thousands of Greek intellectuals tortured and jailed by the military junta in the late Sixties and early Seventies, had no access to the standard primers. Instead, he taught fellow prisoners by highlighting difficult words and phrases in a battered copy of Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince.

One of his imprisoned colleagues, a general with copperplate handwriting, copied out the text and Papazissis asked his pupils to underline the words they did not know. They all underlined the same ones. The system worked and for the next two years until his release Papazissis taught inmates and was nicknamed the professor.

Now he has just published a series of readers for people with English as a second language, based on his original idea.

The International Learning System was launched on the UK market at the London International Book Fair this month. The books use unabridged, unsimplified original texts by English and American authors, and are annotated and edited by native English speakers who are also experienced ESL teachers.

Difficult words, phrases and idiomatic expressions are highlighted and explained in simple English in the margin. Parts of speech, secondary definitions and pronunciation guides supply additional information. Books in the ILS series explain up to 1,000 words.

Authors represented include Hemingway, Kipling, F Scott Fitzgerald, Conan Doyle, and Virginia Woolf.

Papazissis, now 61, was jailed in 1969 for five years for belonging to Democratic Defence, a group of left-wing doctors, teachers, lawyers, journalists and publishers formed to fight the rule of the Greek Colonels.

He says: "We published underground newspapers and books and plotted, unsuccessfully, to blow up buildings. But we were amateurs and of course we were caught fairly quickly.

"None of us knew how long we would be in jail - the junta could just keep adding to your sentence if they wished. The jails were full of students, doctors, journalists, court-martialled army officers who had refused to take part in the coup, professionals from all walks of life - and everyone passed the time studying."

The ILS series is available from the Bournemouth English Book Centre, Albion Close, Poole BH12 3LL, tel 01202 715555, at pound;2.99 each

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