Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Midterm Interviews

The midterm assignment for ASE 1 is an interview-- students must find a Gainesville resident and interview them. They record the interview and turn in to me a transcript of the first and last five minutes, as well as a recording of the interview.

So I'm reviewing the assignments now; reading the transcripts, listening to the interviews and to the recorded reactions that I also required. It is really, really fascinating.

First, because the interviewees are interesting and diverse.

Second, because I'm realizing how much my students are learning about Gainesville and Florida culture, through this project.

Third, it's really interesting to read the transcripts and see what phrases, what figures of speech my students understand, and what makes no sense to them. "The shopping is dismal," for example, was interpreted as "The shopping is dizzy mall" (which made as little sense to him as it would to you or me). My student K also could make neither head nor tail of "it redeems itself"-- he transcribed, "every deens is soft" with a big question mark afterwards. English speakers do not speak the way textbooks say we do, and entering into the fray of real live everyday English is, well, an adventure.

I don't think, though, that I want to teach idioms. Idiomatic language changes rapidly, and every speaker has his own idiosyncracies. I might well not totally understand a figure of speech used by another native speaker. The important thing is to be able to catch the nuances of speech, to distinguish when somebody is saying "uh" and when theyr'e saying "a", for example-- to interpret which bits of noise are meaningful and which meaningless. It's good, of course, to be able to speak in idiomatic language. But to memorize idioms and try to figure out when they're appropriate, will always be a losing battle. Translate idioms from your native tongue! Make up idioms on the spot! Listen to people speak, and experiment by repeating versions of the idioms you hear-- see what reactions you get.

Above all, don't be doctrinaire about language. Your teacher in Korea gave you a list of do's and don'ts and punished you when you disobeyed them. And what was the result? After more than a decade of studying English hard, you still can't speak the damn language. Time for a new strategy.


Post a Comment

<< Home