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Vowel Movements

, , , | Learning | April 27, 2019

(In most Spanish-speaking countries, the letters “B” and “V” sound exactly alike, which means you have to specify “big B” or “little V” when spelling. This leads to the hilarious mispronunciation of a number of English words. I’m volunteering to help a group of students practice their English, and I’m explaining the use of a/an:)

Me: “‘A’ is used when the next word starts with a consonant, like C, N, or T. ‘An’ is used when the next word starts with a vowel, like E, I, or U.”

Student #1: *muttering to self* “Oh, a bowel…”

Me: “No, no. A vowel. Little V.”

All Students: “Oh, a bowel!”

Me: *laughs* “Nope. Vowel. Little V. In English, big B and little V have two different sounds: B is with your mouth closed, and V is with your upper teeth on your lower lip, like this.” *demonstrates exaggerated movements*

Student #2: *attempting the new pronunciation* “V-v-vowel?”

Me: “Perfect!”

Student #1: “Bowel?”

Me: “No, a bowel is part of your insides — I don’t think you want that. Vowel has a little V. Remember, your teeth have to go on the outside of your bottom lip, like this.” *demonstrates and waits for everyone to copy*

Me: “Exactly!”

Student #1: “Okay… Bow—“

Me: “Not quite!”

Students #2-4: “Like this!” *demonstrate exaggerated mouth movements*

Student #1: “B-b-b-v-v-v-vowel…?”

Me: “Perfect!”

All Students: *cheer*

(After my own mishaps learning other languages, I love teaching them!)

Peruvian Toilet Spiders Of Death

, , , , | Related | September 23, 2018

(My little sister and I decide to take a Tour of Peru together. We are at the point in the trip where we will spend the next two days in Machu Picchu, the trip highlight. The difference with this part of the trip, which we knew in advance, is that you cannot take large pieces of luggage with you. The train can’t take the weight. Each passenger is allowed a small bag. All luggage is secured at the base of the mountain. We were prepared and have our reduced bags, which are basically overnight bags at best. Only the essentials are here. One of the items I picked was a can of Raid. My sister is very aware of my arachnophobia and my slow gains on conquering it. This is the rainforest we are visiting. Already, at a lower elevation, she has crushed a spider for me big enough I heard it crunch. God only knows what’s up the mountain. We get into the hotel at the top and everything is great. We settle in for the night. I shower at night, so I begin to run the water but let her use the toilet real quick. Turns out… not so quick. As I walk out of the bathroom, I note a crack in the toilet. Since it isn’t leaking, no big deal. Turns out it isn’t a crack. My sister uses the toilet and goes to flush when she screams. Yup, there’s a toilet spider — a spider big enough I thought its leg was a crack. She keeps trying to flush it down — without success — and screaming at me not to enter the bathroom. I remember the Raid and hand off the can. Between the pesticide and the constantly flushing toilet, we conquer the toilet spider. After my shower, I mention the crack I saw.)

Sister: “You saw that thing and let me pee on it?”

Me: “I thought it was a crack in the toilet.”

Sister: “How? I can’t believe you! I sat with my bare butt to that thing. And you let me!”

(We still argue whether I should have warned her or not. The spider also gets bigger with every telling! We loved that trip and all its stories.)