Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What Gets Lost in Translation

I am curious as to whether the author of my kindergarten curriculum is indeed a native English speaker, or whether he/she just a twisted sense of humor. Today's lesson in my second class was, shall we say, a bit rough on the teacher.

Apparently, euphemisms were not taken into consideration in the writing of the textbook. Try keeping a completely straight face while teaching all of your students to say "Those are my balls!" Normally, I'm above such things, but today, it was REALLY hard not to giggle after hearing this about the sixth time (with each child pointing down at the picture on the bottom of the page as they said it). Take into consideration that my first kindergarten class still insists on referring to the number that follows five as "sex" instead of "six" and I'm sure you'll excuse my brief relapse into adolescent humor.

The author of the textbook also has lousy grammar, which sometimes irks me a bit. For instance, I'm supposed to teach the kids to say they're doing good (when actually they are well), and have them learn to ask if they "can" do something (when actually they should be saying "may"). I know that very few Americans even briefly consider grammar anymore, but I don't like deliberately teaching poor grammar. It's like encouraging kids to live up to the lowest standards.

Some of the things the kids come up with on their own are pretty funny. A few kids like to use the word "angry" as a substitute for "very": "I am angry hot, teacher!" or "It is angry sunny outside." Oh, and what blockhead taught all these Korean kids the phrase "so-so"? I seldom hear that back home, and yet almost every kid over here says they're so-so when I ask how they're doing. They like to make combinations, too: "I'm happy and so-so," "I'm angry and so-so." What the heck?! I keep finding myself using the blasted phrase now!

I love teaching English. I may completely lose my mind in a few months, but I love it.

1 comment:

Matthew Royal said...

My cousins in Massachusetts talk like that: "it's wicked hot," "that's wicked awesome," or just plain "wicked!"

Do you have editorial control over what you're teaching them? Would they mind if the native-speaking teacher scribbled corrections in their books?

"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"