498th post – Last day as English language teacher

Today is my last day as an English language teacher, after more than eleven and a half years at a language college, provincial government high school and university in South Korea and language colleges in Australia. I am making this move for a wide variety of reasons, related to the ESL sector in general (an Australian student visa requires attendance at classes for 20 hours per week, so most teachers are engaged for 20 hours per week, and there is very little opportunity to advance to a full-time position), the college and colleagues (some classes at some colleges are run as courses – the students start at the same time, do the course, and finish at the same time, but our English classes have been ‘start and finish when you need to’, and I’ve had to share a small office with up to four other people of various degrees of loudness in various languages, as student of various degrees of loudness in various languages come and go), the students (who have different levels of English, life experience and personal and study backgrounds, some of whom attend way less than 20 hours per week, and come and go, use their phone, chat in their own language or sleep when they are there), and myself (basically, dealing with all of the above, and commuting). 

Through English language teaching, I’ve lived in South Korea for two periods totalling three and a half years, met my wife, travelled to Hong Kong and Japan, met all kinds of other people in South Korea and Australia, gained my masters degree (and may yet go on to doctoral study), attempted to learn Korean (하지만 아직 잘 못 해요), developed a serious hobby of photography and started this blog. On the other hand, I’ve had to largely give up my other serious hobby of classical choral singing. (I can and will return to that, but it remains to be seen whether I will ever again perform at my peak.) So now it’s time for a change. From tomorrow …

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“I’ll be frank with you”

I currently have one very low level student (who would be better off in the morning class, but keeps coming to mine), who is working from the beginner textbook. One early chapter introduces countries, first by themselves, then with people from those. One country is France and one person is Franz (I didn’t note which country, probably Germany). The student noticed the similarity between the names, so I quickly said “They aren’t the same word. France is a country, like China (pointing to her) and Australia (pointing to me). Franz is a name, like [her name] (pointing to her) and [my name] (pointing to me).” She seemed to understand.

Except that they really are the same word. The names Franciscus, Francesco, Francisco, François, Franz and, according to Wikipedia, 192 other variations from 74 languages, all mean “Frenchman/woman”. Famous people with that name include Francis of Assisi, Francis Xavier, Francis Bacon (x 2), Francis Ford Coppola, Frank Sinatra, Francis Drake, F Scott Fitzgerald, Francis Scott Key, Holy Roman Emperors, kings and assorted other noblemen, the current pope, and Francis the Talking Mule. Perhaps surprisingly, given the popularity of the name overall, Pope Francis is the first of his name, compared to 16 Benedicts. I can only assume that more Benedictines have become popes than Franciscans. Pope Francis is, in fact, a Jesuit, but there haven’t been any Pope Ignatiuses. (That looks wrong – Ignatii?) Then there’s the surname Frank/Franck/Frankel/Franco/Franz (and several more variations).

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have

My house (1) has a bath and shower and I (2) have a bath or shower every day. I (3) have to have a bath or shower every day. My previous apartment also (4) had a bath and shower and I (5) had a bath or shower every day. I (6) had to have a bath or shower every day. This was a good thing because my first apartment (7) had had only a shower and I (8) had had a shower every day. I (9) had had to have a shower every day.

Most of that is made up to illustrate a grammar point, namely the various uses of the verb have as an auxiliary verb, a main verb, a catenative verb and an ‘extra verb’.

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students’ countries

I have occasionally said to people that I’ve taught students from more than 30 countries. I think the list below is accurate, but I might have missed one or two. Overwhelmingly most of my students have been/are from Asian countries (esp PR China, Hong Kong, RO China, Thailand) at my current college, South American countries (esp Colombia, Peru, Brazil) at my previous college, and South Korea in South Korea. I’ve had only one or two students from most of the African, Middle-Eastern and European countries.

 

Mongolia PR China Hong Kong RO China South Korea Japan

Thailand Cambodia Vietnam Malaysia Singapore Indonesia Fiji

Mexico Colombia Peru Brazil Argentina

Tanzania Kenya Egypt UAE Jordan Israel Lebanon Turkey

Spain Italy Hungary Czech Republic Poland Latvia Lithuania Greece

Iran Pakistan India Nepal Bangladesh

Interference errors

The question in the exam was ‘Put the words in the correct order to make a sentence’. One set of words was ‘next / they / What / are / do / to / going / year / ?’. Most students got it right, several wrote ‘What they are going to do next year?’, and eight of them wrote ‘What are they do going to next year?’. My first thought was that they had ‘cooperated’ on the exam, but checking their names showed that they were sitting in different parts of the room, and the rest of their answers showed no signs of ‘cooperation’.

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Pronouncing Korean

My Korean pronunciation apparently still needs work. One class was practicing ‘can’ for ability. After eliciting sentences like ‘I can play (sport/computer game/musical instrument)’, ‘I can cook (food)’, ‘I can ride (bike, motor scooter/motor bike)’ and ‘I can drive (car)’, I asked:

Parlez-vous fraçais?
them: (blank looks)
me: Can you speak French?
them: No.
me: Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
them: (blank looks)
me: Can you speak German?
them: No.
me: 한국어를 하세요?
them: (blank looks)
me: 한- 국 – 어 – 를 하 – 세 – 요?
them: (blank looks)
me: Can you speak Korean?
them: Of course!
me: 한국어를 하세요?
them: (blank looks)
me: 한- 국 – 어 – 를 하 – 세 – 요?
them: (blank looks)
me: (internal sigh)

The French and German translate as ‘Speak you (language)’ and the Korean as ‘Do you speak (language)’, but it’s the standard question to ask in each language. Korean has several other options; maybe French and German do, too. In English, we might ask ‘Can you speak (language)?’ or ‘Do you speak (language)?. Those aren’t necessarily the same question or answer. One might not speak a language which one can speak, for example, being the only speaker of your language in the vicinity or for socio-political reasons.