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Humor bridges language barrier

PELICAN RAPIDS - Did you hear the one about the guy who wrote a book of jokes to help Chinese learn English?

That would be Gerry Haukebo.

Haukebo, a Pelican Lake resident, has written jokes for the book Did You Hear the One About...Classic American Jokes that was then translated into Chinese. The book is for Chinese people learning the English language.

This isn't Haukebo's first time working with different languages.

"I'm credited with starting the language villages in Bemidji," he said. He started them in 1961.

Through the language villages Haukebo met a professor from China who wanted Haukebo to come to China and teach English. He started a language village in China in 1989.

That village grew from one to nine villages in just four years.

With the thirst to learn the English language, publishers approached Haukebo about writing a book of jokes in English that would be translated into Chinese -- something that wasn't a problem for him.

"If I have any kind of audience, I like to tell stories," said Haukebo

He added that learning a language is easier if the student is reading something interesting and fun like jokes and short stories.

Thus began Did You Hear the One About...Classic American Jokes. Along with the book is a CD recording of the jokes.

Nadine and David Brown, teachers in the Pelican Rapids School District, recorded the jokes in English for those learning the language to hear the words rather than just read them.

"There ought to be a rather respectable market over there (in China) for it," he said.

Haukebo didn't necessarily write the jokes in the book though. He simply searched for jokes that were easy to understand, had universal meaning and were appropriate for any age, and compiled them into this book.

"I had to be careful to weed out any negative ethnic and age jokes," he said.

Being that the jokes are simple and fit for anyone, Haukebo said the book could easily be used to translate into different languages and be used to teach anyone English as a second language.

That decision is up to the book publisher, but there could be more languages in Haukebo's future.