Below you can see a 1930s-style ‘whodunnit’ to test your awareness skills. Don’t cheat, and watch it through, if you haven’t already, believe us, it is worth it!
One of our favorite awareness tests is this video from 2008, “produced by Transport for London and the Mayor of London, was posted on YouTube.” This gag is to prove how unobservant one can be while, for instance, driving, as the original message of the advert was this:
“The advert ends with the message: “It’s easy to miss something you are not looking for. On a busy road, this could be fatal. Look out for cyclists.”
Well, for us here, at Law Enforcement English, this clichéd video became one of our favorites as it shows how we, or rather, our mind fails to perceive – not one, but twenty-one radical changes in a short video. This, of course, led our attention to the question of witnessing.
Have you ever witnessed an accident or a crime? If so, did you have to describe it? How well did you manage to describe it? If you think better of it, the video above is a crystal-clear example that even when we do not have to deal with stress, or we are sort of prepared to watch how the setting is going to change – we make mistakes, we miss details. Add the previous factors: the stress and the shock perhaps, and the chances of witnessing and recalling the scene exactly start reducing. This, we can call the emotional factor. Let’s suppose, you are watching this video from home, or in your office, your stress level is minimal. When I have this similar exercises with my students, their stress level is a bit above minimal, as it is a classroom environment, they might feel this exercise to be challenging, so even if they are experienced police officers, they will make mistakes. It is okay, however, because as I always tell them, they are usually ‘on the other side’ of the desk, plus, we are human beings. So let us name this aspect, the human factor.
Imagine yourself in the situation of a witness, who does not even speak the language of the country they are in, and they have to take their witness account in English. This linguistic factor can also function as a barricade if we do not know how English can help us, but, it, indeed, can. Whenever we recall events from the past, we can use four tenses of the past: Past Simple, Continuous, Perfect and Perfect Continuous (with which we are not dealing right now).
Past Simple is used when we talk about a finished (or recurring) activity in the past. It might involve examples of state verbs, like ‘hit, killed, shot or beat’.
Past Continuous is used when we talk about a certain unfinished activity that was going on at an exact moment in the past. For example, ‘I was driving home when I saw him.’
Past Perfect is an important tense to emphasize an effect or a result on the past, or to say something had happened earlier.
In Law Enforcement English, these pieces of information can sometimes be crucial, like ‘they had already arrived at the scene’, thus I am encouraging students to let English tenses help them to pinpoint the subtle details in a case. For instance, every crime has a timeline, where it does matter if somebody had broken in, then killed someone else, or had killed somebody and then broke in. For more examples check out our brand new online course, ‘Witness Psychology’, which deals with basic interrogative questions, past tenses and the relevant vocabulary:
Forensic Sciences – especially Forensic Psychology tackles the issue of how we witness certain events of a crime. In this class, students can test themselves in such situations and can make use of witness interrogation. To learn more about witnessing, check out our course, ‘Witness Psychology’ in our course section.
Check out our Instagram tomorrow for an exercise!