Fun with the English Language
21.11.2011 - 02.12.2011 9 °C
It’s a bit of a running joke amongst (or is that amoungst?) the Americans here teaching English. Whilst the British and Americans proclaim to speak the same language, lest you be mistaken that we Americans tend to take a more lackadaisical approach to this thing we call “English”. One area that continues to cause us Americans to giggle is the use of the word “got” in asking questions with the verb ‘have’…as in:
“Have you got any brothers or sisters?” “Yes, I have got one brother and one sister.” In the US, we replace the word ‘got’ with the helping word ‘do’, to form the question: “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” and with the answer, we simply don’t use ‘got’ and say: “Yes, I have one brother and one sister.” What’s the big deal? - you may ask. Well, if a student is used to being asked a question with: “Have you got….” and we come along and ask “Do you have…” this is enough confusion to have the students scrunch up their eyebrows with a : “No entiendo….” As well, our poor daughters are having to use this “Have you got…” and “I have got…” sentence structure in their English classes…much to the chagrin of their English teachers in the United States.
I could write an entire blog on the humorous differences between British English and American English, but suffice it to say…”We have got our money” and just in time to celebrate the good old tradition of Black Friday, which is NOT celebrated in Spain. Nonetheless, the streets are filled with shoppers, shoppers mostly buying fresh fruit and veg - but in spite of the terrible European economy there is a sense of holiday spirit in the air, with the traditional Spanish products on the shelves.
Black Friday isn’t celebrated in Spain, and of course neither is Thanksgiving. Just as it felt odd to not really go out in the full spirit of Halloweening – it felt really, really odd to not have the usual Thanksgiving gathering and even odder to not have the Thanksgiving holiday off. We all talked turkey in our English classes all week and some of the Americanos here in Plasencia decided to put together a bit of a friendship gathering.
We have been living in Spain for three months now. We are settled into our new routines and rhythms. Teaching and schooling has become a bit more comfortable for us all. Our ears are tuning into and out of Spanish on a daily basis – I know the girls are improving their Spanish at lightning speed. Our improvement is more like mud flowing. We have several language intercambios and a handful (a growing handful) of English lessons. With the continued downturn of the European economy, and Spain in the number three position of worst western economies, everyone is scrambling to improve their English conversation skills, so they will become more eligible for better work opportunities. I never realized how advantaged we are in the United States to have English as our mother tongue. Neither did I realize how much of a demand there is in the world to learn English. And – just because one can speak English, doesn’t mean one can teach English. This language of ours is immensely complicated and cumbersome to teach.
A few weeks ago, Andy and I (and other Assistants from the US and around the English speaking world) were invited to participate in "English Day" in the lovely village of Hervas. The students consisted of adults that were/had been studying at the 'Escuela de Idiomas' here in Plasencia and who are at a conversant level. It was a very interesting experience for us all, and we really enjoyed working with adult 'students'.
We are always thinking of interesting and creative ways to present information to the students we help. What may seem simple and ordinary to us is nothing of the sort. Why do we say: does (as in duz) and goes (as in goze)? Why do we say of (as in uv) and off (as in awf)? Why are ‘one’ and ‘won’ pronounced the same? Why is ‘laugh’ pronounced like ‘laff’? Why do we say ‘walk’t’ and ‘talk’t’, but rested, nested – but there’s no bested? Beats the heck out of me!
With all that complication going on, plus the fact that the students don’t have much – don’t have hardly any opportunities to converse in English, it’s understandable why they are so reticent to speak. I am experimenting with using songs and short videos to introduce vocabulary and create a more relaxed atmosphere. I still need to work more on the timing and the use of the lyrics and all of that, but needless to say, the idea of bringing in music, or short English speaking videos into the classroom is very successful. So – name your favorite songs for me and I’ll see what I can about using them in the classes!
Next week is a bit of a breather for us all…there are a couple of holidays and so we’ll be heading out and exploring a bit. The first part of the holiday we plan to travel to Segovia and for the second, we are working on putting together a trip to Lisbon, Portugal. Our little used car is serving us very well and we are very happy to have it. It is quite economical, which is super important, considering gasoline/diesel costs about 1.40 euro/liter…that works out to about 5.60 euros/imperial gallon. Last weekend we explored the ruins of an ancient Roman city called Cáparra. The ruins of the ancient city and tower were incredible, but the girls were much more fascinated by a ‘stray’ pup that followed us everywhere. We decided to name him ‘Buddy, the olive eater’, as he picked ripe olives off the nearby trees and ate them (whole!)
So – this blog post is ‘short and sweet’ as we say in the USA – before you know it, it will be Christmas holiday break. We’re planning to take an extensive driving tour of Spain, starting in the South. We’ll have close to 3-weeks and have plans to first head south to Sevilla, then Grenada, then up the coast and to Barcelona. From there…who knows…everyone keeps telling us about the country of Andorra and how wonderful the skiing is…there will be so much to see and so much to write about and so much fun to be had. We look forward to have a nice break from the teaching and studying.
Con abrazos a todos - La Familia Dunning