Thursday, March 12, 2015

Adventures in ESL

Image source.

I teach English to adults in China, and I have stories.


One of the lessons contained the term "cheated on" so I had to explain what it meant. "It means you have sex with someone who's not your husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend."

But ... that's not a good enough explanation. The students have to know how to USE this term. So I wrote on the board:

"A cheated on B with C."

"So, A and B are married. [draws arrow between A and B, writes 'married.'] But then A has sex with C so B is angry."

All the students are writing this down, and I'm thinking, "how is this my job?"


In a lesson about polite language, there were some examples about using "would like" instead of "want." I let the students practice negotiating using the language, and I hear one of them say to their partner, "Would you like to give me a car?"


me: "So you can look at these ads, and then talk about which ones you like or don't like."

student: [looks at ads] "... I don't like any of them..."

me: "Why is that?"

student: "Well... I think they're boring... to be honest, I think they would be a lot better if they put Matthew McConaughey in."


There was one lesson I taught about emergency situations. It had some vocabulary like "calm down" and "don't panic".

So I had all the students write down an emergency situation, so then we could role-play them. One student wrote, "I went to the movies with my wife, and saw my ex-girlfriend there."

Yep, that's an emergency situation...


I taught them how to play charades. One student pretends to be snorting something off the table, and all the others yell out, "DRUGS!"



"I think this movie is a chicken flick."


In one class, we were practicing what to say when you disagree with someone. Phrases like "As much as I'd like to agree with you" etc. So, I had the students tell their partner some opinion about anything, and the partner had to disagree.

I let them practice a bit, and then asked one student to do an example with me. Any opinion, and I have to disagree with it. He says, "I hate America!!!"

... Yeah. He was totally joking around- he's one of the goofy ones. (And in the past he's told me how he wants to travel to Los Angeles because it's the best place ever.)


So I put everyone in groups and had them prepare skits. During one of the skits, while one particular student was acting, another student leaned over to me and said, "He looks like Jason Mraz."


So there's an American teacher playing blackjack with a group of students- playing for US $1 bills printed out of the photocopier. I came over to see what they were doing, picked up a few of the fake bills, and said "Oh cool! ... Yeah, that's illegal."

The other teacher shrugged, laughed, and said, "It's China."


A student told me a joke:

There was a family of mice, and they came out of their hole to look for food. However, they saw a cat, and they ran back into their hole terrified.

The grandfather mouse stood up and said, "Don't worry, my children, I can fix this problem." Then he went outside the hole and said "ARF ARF ARF ARF!!!!!" The cat thought it was a dog, and ran away.

The grandfather mouse came back inside and said, "See, my children, this is why it's important to study foreign languages."


me: “Now we’re going to play a game... Okay, so there are 8 students, hmm should we have 2 teams or 3 teams?”

students: “TWO TEAMS!!!!!”

me: “You don’t even know what the game is yet.”


In a class about negotiation language, I put the students in pairs and had them try to sell their pen to their partner.

After a few minutes, I hear them saying to each other, "Eff your pen..."


Turns out it was supposed to be "if".


Students were discussing the question, "If you were alone on a desert island and you could only bring one thing with you, what would you bring?"

"My phone."

"But there is no signal, and the battery will only last for a few hours."

"I know, but I want to spend my final moments like this [looks down and twiddles thumbs as if using a phone]."


So one of my colleagues was teaching some of the students Christmas songs. They listened to two songs and read the lyrics, and were about to do a third song.

Teacher: "You guys have really never heard these songs before? ... They are really popular songs. ... Okay, the next song, you MUST have heard it before. If you haven't, I'm going back to America!!!" [finds song on his iPhone and starts playing it. "Santa Claus is coming to town."]

Students: [blank stares all around]

one student: "Take us with you."