Teaching English to foreigners

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October 24th 2010
Published: October 24th 2010
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Trying to explain English, colloquial English, is like trying to tie your shoe while it’s on your ear; the concept isn’t new, but somehow you feel it’s out of place.

I have a student who is very eager to learn. He talks… incessantly. He talks about nothing, and spins it into a 30 minute conversation.

My role in his learning has almost become what I’d call an accent coach. I correct his pronunciation, his flow, his word choice, and try to make him sound like he’s been speaking English since he could speak.

First, Chinese speakers do not have a “th” sound native to their language. When they say “something”, it sounds like “some-sing”, “they” sounds like “zay”, “thirty” sounds like “sirty”. Trying to teach them to put their tongue between their teeth and make a sound is almost comical, but closer to frustrating.

Second, Chinese speakers want to end nearly every word with “uh”. It’s not “pink” to them, it’s “pinka”; it’s not “it’s black” to them it’s “it’s-uh black-uh”. Trying to break them of this habit will be the reason I’m committed.

Third (sird?), Have you ever tried to teach someone else how to speak your language when YOU don’t even speak the language? At least not the way it’s MEANT to be spoken. “Sup dude, whatcha doin? Me’n’the boys-er gonna go get some food’n’stuff, wanna come with?” WHAT IS THIS??? How do you explain that THAT translates to, “What’s up dude, what are you doing? Me and the boys are going to go get some food and stuff, do you want to come with us?”

And I can’t… won’t and physically cannot begin with the EVILS of “text speak”.

I’m not saying that the general population of English speakers is making us all dumber every time some says “omg” in anything other than TEXT, but when native speakers of a language can’t figure out where to put an apostrophe… we may need to re-evaluate schools… or the breeding policies.

Back on topic…

It’s an interesting perspective to have on one’s native language when you are forced to articulate, speak slowly, and use proper grammar and spelling.

I feel like my whole verbal aspect of life went from 100mph in the fast lane to a 35mph crawl in San Diego traffic. Yeah it’s still going, but it’s painfully lethargic.


24th October 2010

being stuck in traffic is aggravating at best, but then trying to speed it us when you see the problem is maddening when others won't or can't listen to reason and just don't get it wow, a challenge to say the least, but i know that you can do it, one syllable at a time, when you hear that th, you will zen know that you are making progress
24th October 2010

Mija! wassup?
Interesting read. Super cool - I like. Especially enjoyed the lack of 'th' and additions of 'uh'. You certainly have your work cut out for you. Do they have trouble with the tenses?
25th October 2010

Foreign accents can be beautiful. I love the way French speakers almost sing their words. I noticed that a lot of Italians added the "uh" to the end of their words. They also have a nasal whining sound in the way they speak. It must be a regional thing. I agree that Americans are getting pretty sloppy about our language. I'm sure you will come back with your English very proper. Sometimes the teacher must learn from the student.
26th October 2010

What the heck.... it sounds like you teaching english is like me trying to mentor a few special individuals. You can and you do make progress, however the rate at which change occours is enough to make you want to stab yourself in the eye with the closest sharpest object......
29th October 2010

snooze news
that means nothing so interesting here. Andrew and family seem to be doing fine. Haley holds him most of the time, at least when we are there. I think she is a good mom. Baby looks just like Andrew's pictures. I gave Andrew all the ones I had. No one else had any. We went to Texas for the barbecue and had a really good time. Ran into a scary sleet storm in New Mexico. Plan to go to Arizona for Thanksgiving. Sounds like you're doing fine. Just keep up the enthusiasm. Love

Tot: 1.088s; Tpl: 0.025s; cc: 9; qc: 47; dbt: 0.0343s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 2; ; mem: 1.3mb