Monday, February 16, 2009

Teaching English in Romania

On Monday mornings I teach English at a high school here in Iasi. I am doing this because the principal of the school is helping me (and two other team members) get our visa. So we are returning the favor by making use of our native English speakingness. I have three classes- one beginner, one intermediate, one advanced. This makes for quite the interesting time preparing lessons. It has been truly a wonderful time to learn more about my own language and culture, to actually learn what is uniquely American, and figure out ways to teach my native tongue and culture. Besides that, I get a glimpse into Romanian teenagedom in all its awkward glory. Each week I teach about a U.S. city- statistics about it, landmarks, notable culture of that place, and food you might find there- and then random other tid bits, such as American slang.

First, the slang. In doing this I actually had to start thinking about what IS slang. Words we say all the time but actually don't translate into anything literal in another language. While the obvious "awesome" and "cool" are high school favorites, here are some other words and phrases that are completely slang:
Scooch (as in "scooch over")
Pet Peeves
Cram (as in "cram for an exam")
Yucky
Grungy
Goofy
Lame
Neat
"Get a kick out of"
"Pain in the neck"
"Get your rear in gear"
"Piece of cake"
"Pit stop"
Mellow out/Wig out
Meltdown
The kids really enjoy learning idioms and slang, so this was a fun day. It was particularly fun when I asked them to then use some of these in sentences or have conversations. With my advanced students I had one student pretend to be a famous person, and the rest could ask questions, hopefully using slang. Here is one of their conversations wherein a student pretended to be Madonna:
Student: Are you wigging out about being old?
Madonna: No, I think I am just fine and young as ever.
Student: How much Botox do you have in your body?
Madonna: uhhh....
Student: I hear your last concert was lame.
Madonna: That is your opinion. I think it was phat.

This next one is when I pretended to be President Obama coming to Romania and sitting before the "National Committee to Improve Romania," better known as the 10 students in the class. We were talking about the hospitals and improvements that could be made, and they were telling me how the temperature is always wrong- too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. So...
Me: Alright, so how can you fix the temperature problem?
Student: Isolation!!!
Me: Do you mean insulation?
Student: Yes, yes, insulation.

A similarly cute mix-up occurred in a dialogue after I taught the students about ordering in American restaurants, what some common 'American' foods are, and various side dishes you might order that they don't have in Romania (jello, baked beans, applesauce, coleslaw)...
Waitress: What would you like to eat today?
Diner: I would like a steak with a side of baked jeans.
*giggles*
Diner: Shoooot I always do that. I mean baked beans.

And another little dialogue from the waiter/diner series:
Waiter: Today we have a special soup. It's called diary soup.
Me (interrupting the dialogue): Did I hear you correctly? Diary soup?
Waiter: Yes, it brings up interesting feelings.

Recently I have taught the students about Tongue Twisters. I thought this would be a good way to help them articulate words in English and to teach about alliteration, homographs, and homophones. More than that, I figured it would at least be an amusing way for these kids to spend their Monday mornings. So, I taught them some classic English tongue twisters (she sells seashells by the seashore!... How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?), taught them a variety of homophones, and then had them write their own. The following are selections from the various classes:
Beginners-
Here I hear my hair growing on my head.
The wind won when it broke the window.
Intermediate-
The son sees the sun reflected in the sea.
A snake has a snack- a snail that is stuck in some sneakers. (LOVE this one!)
Advanced-
I wanted to take a break from making a baked cake and a steak.
It takes patience to deal with patients who are not patient enough to be a patient.

And this is my life. Will be sure to post more amusing English class happenings as they occur.

2 comments:

preethi said...

Haha, love it. I have a friend (Penn student, no less) who, to this day, cannot figure out the difference between "quit," "quite," and "quiet."

Michelle said...

this is awesome, Liz. LOVE the ESL moments.