So I’m going over the vocabulary lesson today. I say the words aloud so kids can repeat them correctly aloud. Fine. No big deal. One of the words in this week’s chapter is “ordain,” which means “appointed or ordered by superior authority.”
One of my students interrupts me and under her breath asks for clarification of the word, trying to find a similarity between English and Portuguese definitions.
“Yes?” I reply.
“Can you ordain a cow?”
Apparently there’s a word that sounds similar to “ordain” in Portuguese that means “to milk,” as in, “to milk a cow.” I assured her no, you cannot ordain a cow. (I suppose the Pope could, but not a regular person like you and me. Why the Pope would ordain a cow is another matter.)
Another pronunciation mishap occurred with my Korean ESL students. We were reading from Sandra Cisneros’ book “The House on Mango Street,” and came across the word “sheet,” as in bed sheets, or sheets of paper.
One of my boys blushed and said he couldn’t say that word out loud.
“Why not,” I asked.
“Isn’t ‘sheet’ a bad word?”
I bit my cheeks, because he was dead serious.
“No. ‘Shit’ is a bad word. Don’t say that word. ‘Sheet’ is a fine word. But to say it correctly you really have to smile wide and pronounce the ‘ee’.”
So they worked on their smiles and “ees” and I tried to hold back my laughter. If it weren’t for my students, I would never notice these finer points of the English language.
Are you depressed at your job? Noticing a lack of humor? Work here. You will leave every single day with something to laugh about.