Monday, December 12, 2011

Lost in Translation!

Teaching ESL students can be a challenge. For example, it's hard enough to explain to a native English speaking 4th that a "hardship in the colony of Jamestown" does not actually mean there was a boat made out of stone, let alone someone who doesn't quite yet know that a ship and a boat are the same thing.
Although it has its difficult moments, I wouldn't trade it. The inquisitiveness, culture, trains of thought (not real railroad trains... in case any of them are reading this...), and laughter they bring to the classroom are invaluable. There were two particular instances this week where I was reminded of the language barrier and the difficulty of the English language.
Tuesday morning, one of my students came in very solemnly, sat down at his seat, completed his morning work and then just stared off into space for a while. A few minutes later, he got up, turned to me, and said, "Ms. Wacek. I think today is not my lucky day."
Me: "Why not?"
"I got run over by a car this morning."
"I was walking to the bus and I looked both ways before I went in the street. But then, it just zoomed out of nowhere and ran me over."
"Ummmmm... What?! Did the driver stop? Are you hurt?"
"No. It almost ran me over." 
With that, he went back to his seat and read his book silently. The incident was never mentioned again. The events of that morning were definitely lost in translation. 

That same afternoon, I was tutoring some kids after school. I was working with some boys on long division (a constant in my life these days) and they started goofing around like 10-year-old boys who have just been through a full day of being cooped up in a classroom tend to do. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, one of the ESL boys shouts, "Oh man! This is giving me the hilly-billies!" Through our very confused expressions, everyone started laughing.. a nervous, confused laugh. "The hilly-billies?" 
"Yeah, it's so scary! I have the hilly-billies!"
"The heeby-jeebies?"
"Oh yeah. The heeby-jeebies. That's what I meant. What does that mean?"

I couldn't tell ya. You gotta love the English language! :)


  1. :) I like this post! I know what it's like trying to get your point across in a non-native language. It can be hard sometimes! Definitely helps to laugh it off. -J

  2. TOOOO funny! Just last night I helped Debora edit a paper on the challenges of teaching a non-native English speaking child, as well as the challenges of communicating with the parents. Guess the main thing...keep a good sense of humor! Hmmm...heebie jeebies? That sounds like a Wacek-ism! Love you!
    Anon Mom

  3. That's the Bad Newz I know, hittin kids with cars, driving away, and not even giving them the words to talk about it! I miss the 757!