Sunday, October 19, 2008
The most useful word frequently used
Grading essays is tough, especially when you are grading about 200 "low quality" essays on the same topic. I dreaded giving writing assignments to my students because the dark side of being a teacher is sitting at home during weekends to grade your students' essays. But the dilemma is if you don't give them writing assignments, how would they improve?
Okay, enough of the depressing grading task. What I want to say in this blog entry is that there are always fun things out of the most boring things. Out of the boring grading duty, often i would find something to laugh about. Most of my students are pretty bad in their writing, seriously. They are mostly chinese students that speak chinese at home and don't really have a strong foundation in English. So, a lot of times, there are many direct chinese to english translations in their essays. As most of us are well-aware, translation from one language to another is hard, especially when culture comes into play.
Some of my students tried to translate chinese idioms to English. For instance, "like chicken speaking to duck", which means two people talking about different topics of interest or different languages. "Play piano to the cows", which means when you talk to someone about something and that person totally do not understand what you are trying to convey.
Also, my 13 and 14 year-olds have very limited English vocabulary. When they don't know how to say a word in English, they would use many different ways to let me know. 1. They write the Chinese word on the english essay. 2. They write the spelling of the chinese pronunciation of the word. 3. They leave blanks to let me guess what they are trying to say. 4. They use the word "thing".
I would like to touch on item No.4. The usage of the word "thing".
When you don't know how to say something, you describe it with "the thing" attached to the description.
Ex: 1. The bus stop-- The thing where a lot of people wait for the bus. (I think the student was under too much stress during the exam to remember how to say bus stop.)
2. The faucet-- The thing you turn off and on to let the water come out.
3. The door stop--The thing on the door to make the door stop moving when you want the door to be opened.
I think you and I have done the same "thing" occasionally, when our brain fail us and we forget the simplest words. I decided to be lenient and give them gentle reminders of not to overuse the word "thing" as all overdoses would lead to bad ending.