Thursday, December 01, 2005

Teaching the Teachers

I've said it before, but all 3 of the Korean teachers could benefit from more study and more practice. My boss is very gung-ho, and has her lesson with me once a week, completes all the homework I give her, and asks about grammar points she wants more information about. She's a good student, in that she challenges me to find out things I don't know so I can pass it on to her. I worry, though, that this:
A participial phrase is a group of words consisting of a participle and the modifier(s) and/or (pro)noun(s) or noun phrase(s) that function as the direct object(s), indirect object(s), or complement(s) of the action or state expressed in the participle.
is over her head. She sometimes wants to go deep into the grammar, and I don't know how practical or functional is for her.

My other co-worker is also keen to improve her English, and it does need improving. Since I've known her, she has come up with a handful of ideas on how to study. She joined a cheap-o English class run through one of the churches here, but quit, citing disappointment in her housewife-classmates who always wanted to argue that their 'broken English' was better than hers. She told me yesterday she had told them "a cemetery is where men go in order to become priests," and her classmates looked in their dictionaries to find another word listed. I laughed so hard, and said "do you mean seminary?" She said, "what?" I explained, "a seminary is where men go to become priests, a cemetery is where people go once they've died!"

She assures me she used the proper word in her class, but you never know. Her latest idea is to track down a foreigner for a private lesson. It's the same pattern that happened with my boss, and I know that really, she wants to ask me. I've been avoiding recognizing that fact, and have done well skirting around the idea of me being her teacher, because I don't WANNNNNNNA! She wants to have an hour long weekly conversation class with a foreigner, and maybe bump that up to 2 or 3 times a week. As it is, she has a free 3 hour long one with me most Fridays when we go out for a little dinner and some shopping. I told her that I thought that lessons that were solely conversational in nature were most helpful for a high-level speaker to maintain their skills. For a low intermediate level (I didn't use that term - but rather, "for you, I think,...) it might be more beneficial for a combination of text and conversation. The cost is also a concern to her, so I suggested she might think about a self study program. Private lessons with foreigners are pretty expensive. While having dinner with a nice Korean-American woman who lives in my neighbourhood this past week, I learned that I'm earning less than half the going rate in my lesson with the boss. My co-worker balked at my suggestion of self study, saying she hates studying and it is "very painful and stressful for her." HA! That might be a problem then eh?

I told her what she needed was the English Fairy, who would visit her as she slept and magically implant the language into her brain. She'd wake up all refreshed and British.

My other co-worker has the most experience being overseas, she spent 8 months in Australia not too long ago. I don't know how much English she picked up though, as most times I can't understand what she's saying to me. My usual reply is "what?"

I really do like all the women I work with. They want me to help them out by correcting their English, but I don't really want to, because I'd be correcting them, well, all the time. They also have a bit of a competition going as to whose English is the best. One of them actually asked me the other week, "I know this is silly, but please, is my English the best at school?" I wriggled out from really answering by complementing each of their strengths. The previous 2 foreign teachers at my school, according to my co-worker, never said anything to the Korean teachers about their English. I might have an easier time if I hadn't either, but sometimes gentle corrections pop out of my mouth without my even thinking about it.

Makes me think I might make a good "mom" someday, "I want to go to the store to get some ice cream, please."

Anyhow, one thing that seems to really bug the teachers is when we come across a grammar rule that they were taught in high school or university that is, in fact, erroneous. The pronunciation of "wo" as "oo," for example. I don't know who thought up that one, but the kids were all saying "Ood you like a ooden spoon?"

The teachers seem proud to have learned and maintained the lessons that were (probably) beaten into them by their English teachers, and ood lather plove me long dan admeet dey were learn-ed some faulty eenformayshun.

An ongoing bone of contention has been me teaching the kids "eraser," and them teaching the kids "erazure." When I corrected my boss's pronunciation of that word in our lesson the other day, she told me looked it up, and "both ok." She schooled me very matter-of-factly that "s" when sandwiched between vowels, is always pronounced as "z." I thought a moment, and said "treasure." She said "yes, a Z!" I pointed out it wasn't really a z, more along the lines of a soft g with e, as in "je me souviens."

"Still," she said, "not an 's' sound." I thought another moment and said "mason!" (A word she might not know, except I named one of our new boy students that name just a few weeks ago.) She screwed up her face while I had another lightbulb, "baseball!" And more, "basin" and "awesome." She grabbed her dictionary and said "I'm going to check." I laughed, and said, "Check what? That 'bazeball' is ok too?" She laughed back and said "yes!" At least they have a sense of humour about it!

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