Not Lost In Translation

| Canada | Learning | October 7, 2013

(I am a volunteer working at a government funded program that offers free English-as-Second-Language classes to adult immigrants. As it is a day-time class, most of the students are young stay-at-home-moms or retirees. The students usually communicate in one-word utterances, rather than full sentences. The teacher is taking the attendance.)

Teacher: “[Student #1]? Where is [Student #1]?”

Class: “[Student #1] no school today.”

Teacher: “Oh? Why?”

Class: “Husband come China.”

Teacher: “Her husband came over from China?”

Class: “Yeah. Yeah.”

Teacher: “So? Her husband is not a baby! Why does she need to stay home? She doesn’t need to take care of a husband!”

Class: *laughs*

Student #2: *smiles mischievously and winks* “Bed time.”

(The class erupts into laughter and the teacher starts blushing furiously.)

Teacher: “Okay! I can’t argue with that!”

(It still amazes me how someone who can barely string a few words together to communicate can still find humor and joke around in a language they aren’t familiar with. It’s moments like these that convince me that teaching ESL is something that I want to pursue.)

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Grammar Unleashed

| Incheon, South Korea | Learning | May 30, 2013

(My Korean students have started developing a habit of adding “was” and “were” to any past tense statement.)

Me: “‘I walk home.’ The past is…?”

Student: “I was walked home!”

Me: “No, it’s ‘I walked home.'”

Student: “I was walked home?”

Me: “Hmm. Let me try something.”

(I draw a picture of a student walking along the sidewalk and turn back to the class.)

Me: “I walked home.”

(I draw a leash coming from the student’s neck to the hands of a larger drawn person.)

Me: “I was walked home.”

(The class gets a bit flustered and giggles at the idea of being walked like a dog.)

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Don’t Speak Your Native Ach-tongue

| Hungary | Learning | March 25, 2013

Me: “Hi, I’m interested in learning to speak German.”

Teacher: “In that case, you should stop speaking English.”

Me: “Haha, okay—”

Teacher: “RIGHT NOW!”

Me: *alarmed* “Uh…”

Teacher: *stares at me angrily*

Me: “Um…”

Teacher: *slowly passes me a schedule, still looking furious*

Me: *in shaky German* “… Thank you?”

Teacher: *suddenly calm, also in German* “You are welcome. Have a nice day.”

(It turns out he was a nice teacher – albeit one with a very unusual sense of humor!)

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