Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Things we should teach our students but don't

Here is an invitation to anyone who might happen to be reading: send me your suggestions for things that we really should be teaching our students, but somehow they just never come up in the syllabus. "Ay up me duck" is certainly one of them if you are considering visiting Nottinghamshire.
On a more serious note, I've never seen the expression, "I could do with..." in a coursebook. Try translating that word for word into your students' language!
Regional variations can also cause problems: The English use the word "uncanny" to describe something unexplainable, "an uncanny knack" or "an uncanny resemblance". But in Scotland and the North East, the opposite "canny" means "good", "pretty", "nice" or just about anything positive.
I have at times caught myself explaining things that really shouldn't be explained, like why we say "once", "twice" but "three times". I've wasted time telling them that in the past people used to say "thrice". Worse still, how about killing a few seconds by telling them that O'clock means "of the clock" or that "you" is a formal address, like "vous" in French and that the intimate form, like "tu" was "thou". Now that's something they are going to use everyday! Maybe this pretentious nonsense comes from being fed up with correcting "I live in Marseille since ten years".

Going back to "ay up me duck" (my Brummy equivalent is "alright our kid?"), "me" is in fact "my". Students really ought to be able to understand crucial survival phrases like, "where's me tea?"

"Tea" is another good example. Only the rich had time on their hands for "teatime", whilst for most working class families "tea" means "evening meal" or "dinner". When I was at school, the women who served the food at lunch time were called "dinner ladies". I bet there isn't a region in Britain that calls them "lunch ladies"!

any more suggestions?


Sue Swift said...

Your examples reminded me of a time when I flummoxed (now when did you last teach that word?) a Bolivian friend by saying Give us them books and I've confused more than a few students with Now there's lovely!

If students are going to have contact with native speakers they do need colloquial language - but it's daunting. There's no point teaching Scots expressions if they're going to New York - or vice versa. And there just isn't time to cover everything.

I tend to limit my teaching of colloquial language to things that are common to a number of varieties of English - that's usually enough to be getting on with. Another point is that not even native speakers will understand the colloquial language of every other region - but they usually manage to infer it. I recently came across the expression veg out for the first time - but had no difficulty understanding it at all. Maybe we need to spend more time teaching our students to infer than trying to cover everything, and focus on more restricted dialect forms only if we know for certain that the students will have contact with speakers from a specific area.

Jonathan Lewis said...

I just love "now there's lovely" for all its grammatical incorrectness! Where do you come from? It's not an expression that's used in my neck of the woods.

You're absolutely right about trying to infer meaning than learning every colloquialism. But things like "I could do with a drink" are universal but generally not mentioned in coursebooks(at least my Longman grammar doesn't have it).

robob said...

Hi yeah too true, what some schools want to teach their students and what we use are completely different things! Here some expressions (on a more London note) that I been teaching to my students:

Oi = excuse me (similar to "excuse me", used betwween friends)
Alright / You Alright? = Hello / How are you?
Bruv / Bro = Brother
Nice one = Good on you
Safe = You could say it to someone to show they're a good person or if they've
done something good for you.
Ex: "Safe Bro" = Thanks alot / Good man
Tune = piece of music
Geeza = Good man
Lass, Lad = Woman , Man
Heavy = really good, in regards to music has lots of depth, strong
"That's a heavy Tune!"
Rough = really good, quite raw in it's make up "That's a rough tune!"
How's it going? = How have things been going for you?
nah = no
yeah = yes
Mate = friend
Cotch = a comfortable place ex: "It's a good cotch"
Cotching = relaxing ex: " I'm just cotching" = "I'm just relaxing"
Sick! = Really good! or can mean messed up/ Twisted/ not right
ex:"That's a sick drawing" = "that's a really good drawing!"
Whatever! = "I don't care!"
Nutta! = Crazy man ex: "He's a nutta!" = "He's a mad man!"
"You're Nuts!" = "You're Crazy!"
Is it? = "Is that right?" "really?"

Apple and Pears = Stairs
Giraffe = Laugh
Nelson Mandella = Stella
Boat race = face
Sky rocket = pocket
Bacon and eggs = legs
Bangers and mash = Cash
Adam and eve = believe
Alligator = later " later Alligator"
Boat race = face
Cherry chase = face

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