Monday, February 07, 2011

Some Gems I've Been Saving

I discreetly make a note in my phone when one of my students says something that I wish to share with you.  Recently I've built up a store of them.  So here they are, for your Monday morning reading.

Me: My secret dream job is to be a writer.
Sheldon: Mine's to be a reader.
Me: Why?
Sheldon: Because it's easier than being a writer.

Trivia Question: What adjective describes a person who comes from Ireland?
Blue Team: Irelish?

This one's appeared on Facebook but I repost here because it's one of my all-time favorites.

Taxi Driver: Where come from?
Me: America.
Taxi Driver: Ah!  The USB!
Me: Sort of.
Taxi Driver: What?
Me: I love China.

From a lesson about the difference between present progressive (I am doing something) and the simple present (I do something).

Textbook: What do you think of fast food? (answer with the verb "love")
Bradley: I am loving it.
Me: No, for that one we'd say "I love it."
Bradley: But I thought I'd heard it that way before.
Me: That's McDonald's slogan, but it's not good grammar.
Bradley: Wow.  Fast food is bad for us in more ways than one.

Conversation Question: Have you ever lied about your age?
Neil (age 17): That's dumb.  Why would I lie about my age?
Me: I don't know, maybe to impress a girl?
Neil: What am I supposed to do, tell her I'm 50?  How will that impress her?
Me: Moving on...

Textbook: Take a breath and hold it for 5 seconds.
Bradley (reading): Take a breast and hold it for 5 seconds.

Earlier in this lesson we'd had the vocabulary word "stiletto heels" as part of a fashion discussion.  Now I'm showing wedding pictures and explaining what makes a Champagne flute different from other glasses.

Me: See this tall, thin part here?  It's called a flute.
Jessie: So it's like a stiletto glass.
Me: I never would have thought of it like that, but yes.

Me: When apartments for rent are advertised we describe them like this, "Three bedroom, one bathroom."
Neil: Are there any three bathroom, one bedroom?
Me: Not to my knowledge.
(The homework assignment for this class was to write a letter to an imaginary friend describing an imaginary apartment he'd just rented.  Neil wrote about an apartment with 100 bedrooms and 500 bathrooms.  The only drawback with his new place was that it was so small, and he expected he'd have to move again in a few years to find a bigger place.)

Found in Bradley's free writing assignment: Select ultraviolet rays are beneficial.
Me: Do you mean to say that the sun is good for us?
Bradley: Yes!

Neil: What kind of practice can I do to make myself speak English faster?
Me:  It's not so important to go fast.  Trying to speak faster can cause you to make more mistakes.  Just go at a pace that feels comfortable.  With more practice you'll get faster naturally.
Neil: But I know sometimes Americans speak really fast.
Me: Yeah, people on TV sometimes talk quickly.  If we are excited about something, we'll talk more quickly.
Neil: When my friend was in America he had a system to learn to understand fast English.  His neighbors were a couple that fought a lot, so whenever they started yelling he snuck outside and hid under their window to get some listening practice.
Me: Did it work?
Neil: Yeah.  He said they were talking really fast and he could hear very well because they were screaming so loud.
(I plan to start a marriage seminar based solely on this principle.  Rather than "Is that what Jesus would say?" it will be "Is that the kind of English you want the exchange student in the bushes to learn from you?")

Textbook: Which of these methods do you use to relax when you are stressed?  Talking to a friend, pampering yourself with a massage or hot bath, meditation, exercise.
Bradley: I like pampering myself.
Me: Interesting.  How do you pamper yourself?
Bradley: I don't have a bathtub and I don't like massage, so usually I just get a case of beer.
Me: To share with your friends?
Bradley: Sometimes.

And finally, a lost gem from the immortal Sheldon.  (I don't think I've posted this before.)  To clarify, sometimes the English word hamburger is mistakenly translated into Chinese to mean sandwich.

Sheldon: How do I order food in a restaurant in America?
Me: Read the menu, choose something you'd like and tell the waitress.
Sheldon: What if there's no pictures, or I don't know what the dishes are?
Me: Just tell the waitress what kind of food you're interested in eating.  She'll tell you what they have.
Sheldon: What if I want a hamburger?
Me: Say, "I want a hamburger."
Sheldon: But how will they know what kind of hamburger?  How will they know if I want a beef hamburger or a chicken hamburger or a pork hamburger--
Me: No, there's no such thing.  Hamburger always means it's made from ground beef.  If it's chicken we call it a chickenburger.  If it's fish we call it a fishburger.
Sheldon: So if it's pork we call it a porkburger?
Me: We don't have porkburgers in America.
Sheldon: We have them in Xi'an!
Me: That would be better described as a pulled pork sandwich.
Sheldon: So if it's beef it's called a beefburger?
Me: No, it's called a hamburger if it's made of beef.
Sheldon: Why?  And what do you call a hamburger made of ham?
Me: There is no ham-hamburger.
Sheldon: Then where did the word come from?
Me: Well, the dish we know today as the hamburger was named for the city of Hamburg, Germany---
Sheldon: Never mind, I'm over it.

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