“I get angry when friend is not share penis.”
Some days, I really do become quite weary of correcting the same old spelling/grammar mistakes, but I try to grin and bear it – mainly because my very young students seem to have a better grasp of the English language than a large number of teenagers for whom it’s not a foreign language. Also, I sometimes do find their mistakes hilarious. The example above was 7-year-old Stella’s attempt to complete the sentence “I get angry when…”.
Good try! I said encouragingly, looking over her shoulder. But remember, it’s my friend… and does, not is…. and you need to tell me whose…. oh!
I peered more closely at the scribbled sentence and couldn’t bring myself to say the word aloud to my class, even though there was virtually no chance of them knowing what it meant. What is this word? I asked instead, in my most casual, no-big-deal sort of voice.
It was pens, obviously. I corrected it and retired to my desk to have a private (and very mature) snigger to myself behind the computer screen.
Yes, I find my entertainment. It’s hard-earned, though, let me tell you. The occasional amusing misspelling glittering like a beautiful jewel in the middle of a pile of repeated errors. One child in my second grade class is making a marvellous success of her secret plot to drive me out of my mind, to the point where one day I will leap up, screaming and tearing out my hair, and flee the school forever, probably going as far as to leave the country altogether just so I don’t have to hear her say it one more time: Teacher, this is what?
WHAT! IS!! THIS!!! is my instant, almost automatic response these days. I don’t care what she’s asking me. There could be a man-eating lion crouching under my desk, but I am not going to look before I have corrected the mistake she has been making every single day since she was in my first kindergarten class almost two years ago. She knows. I know she knows. She knows I know she knows. What I don’t know is whether she just can’t be bothered to think before she speaks, or whether she is actually trying to give me a seizure.
And then of course we have the old gem – words or concepts that don’t translate very well because of cultural or linguistic differences. I am still struggling, for example, with the “I have a baby” thing, and getting increasingly exasperated with my students for refusing to listen, and myself for being unable to explain it adequately. Not only do they insist on protesting when I say “Ah, you have a little brother?” in response to “I have a baby boy.”, but the situation has taken an even more bizarre turn for which I have no explanation. Several children have told me that they have a “baby sister”. When I ask a follow-up question using “she” or “her”, they shake their heads quite seriously and say “no, sister is boy!”. Feeling my sanity unravel just that extra inch or two, I take them back to one of the very first things they learned to say in English, pointing at relevant picture cards: This is my brother. This is my sister.
I get them to point to the correct picture. Which one is yours? Boy or girl? Without hesitation, they point to the boy. Brother. I say gently. I point at the pictures once more, just for clarity. Boy: brother. Girl: sister. I get looks of the “Are you freakin’ kidding me? We learned this stuff over a year ago!” variety.
I set the cards down. Now, do you have any brothers or sisters?
A dubious look. Then a defiant tone. “Yes, I have a sister. Sister is BOY.”