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Published: October 24th 2010
TEACHING ENGLISH TO FOREIGNERS
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.
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