my mother tongue

A few months back, I saw an ad on Craigslist. A local church was looking for volunteers for their ESL tutoring program. I thought it’d be fun (I like English grammar and coaching people), and also good for me (I usually don’t know why something should be written a certain way – to me, it just feels right, and you can imagine how helpful that explanation is). There is one week left in this term and, I must say, trying to explain things sometimes makes me feel like English is my second language. Let’s run through a few examples.

: the difference between say and tell and talk (I told them that talk is interactive, say/tell are not)

: Β why some people say a (long a) and some people say a (short a)

: quotation marks

: adjectives vs adverbs (without using the word modify – this one required 2 explanations, 1 analogy, and 1 drawing)

: how to form their mouths to say the v sound

: when to use <verb> and when to use am/are/is <verb>ing since they’re both present tense (without using the proper names – this one required a timeline and a few analogies)

: why you can’t add an ‘s to she/he/they to show possession

: disease vs deceased

: what a senator is (one student said, “someone who wants to be President” – I went with that one)

.. and so on. My one hope is that I haven’t made things more confusing for them. It has been so much fun though. If you’ve ever considered it, I highly recommend it.


9 Responses to “my mother tongue”

  1. I have no doubt that English is one the most difficult languages to learn! I write as I speak; I speak as I think, and what I think is what I learned in about the first grade. I screw up English all the time. However, I try think about what I am saying, and my English gets gooder all the time. πŸ˜›

  2. Thank you for your service! I’m a grammar geek, but I screw up too. If I ever catch an error in a published document, though, I go a bit nutty!

  3. In the words of President-Elect Obama:
    “So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. ”
    I used to be really good at grammar and spelling, but as I’ve gotten [cough] older [cough], I’ve gotten worse. Horrible, really. Good thing for spellcheck. I actually just had to retype cough three times, because I kept putting an “f” in it for crying out loud. Way to go, E!

  4. Haha, it can be like this to teach young kids too. One day I asked our oldest, what a mayor is. “Someone who mayes.” πŸ™‚ I like the diseased verses deceased, funny.

  5. Last spring I helped out with an ESL class, as a way to bolster my spanish- they were spanish speakers. It was a lot of fun. I think the students appreciated my trying to learn spanish- sometimes I’d be helping them and then they’d make me say it in spanish. And then they could get a good chuckle!

  6. leanne: me too. me too. there was a mortgage company I couldn’t use because their radio ad was grammatically incorrect, LOL.

    toni: but it makes sense to put an f. That’s the trouble I have with explaining things. I can see why their choice makes sense to them, and yet it’s the wrong choice in English. Doggone it.

    angela: That’s funny! I know – I would’ve never realized it. I was explaining what a disease was and she asked why they write it on a patient’s chart when they die.

    jan: fun! My group happens to include all spanish speakers, and counting to 14 is about the extent of my spanish. The church also has an SSL class, but it’s on the same day as my volunteer shifts at the shelter. I do intend to learn spanish though – someday. πŸ™‚

  7. I know exactly what you’re going through – I’m helping a 13-year-old French boy with his English and it is a challenge!

  8. paris parfait: you do understand! I remember learning German years ago and do not remember it being this difficult. πŸ™‚

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