Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another Language Teaching Story

Another funny thing that I came across while teaching highlights the limitations of translating by dictionary when you have a limited familiarity with the language you're learning. One of the sentences my grammar book used to illustrate the present continuous tense was "The sun is shining." Simple, right? But when my student brought her completed exercises to her next lesson, she asked me about that example, clearly baffled. I was scrambling to figure out how to explain what it means to shine, thinking about shoes and pennies and water in sunlight, when my student pointed at her lower leg and said "Shine?" Then I understood: knowing that she would find only verb roots in the dictionary, she cleverly looked up shining minus the -ing and got....shin. Well, no wonder it didn't make sense to her to say that the sun is bottom-half-of-your-leg-ing! So we had a talk about how spelling changes when you add -ing to verbs, and the problem was solved, and I bet this student will always remember both shine and shin now.


Jamie said...

When I was babysitting Max (age 2) last weekend, he was counting "ten, one-teen, twoteen, threeteen" and I giggled and said "not threeteen, thirteen!" and he shook his head and said "oh no, jamie . . . threeteen, four-teen, five-teen"
Max, I like the way you think . . . but the English language doesn't.

chrissy said...

well, my shins usually do shine due to their extreme white paleness. I think your student did get it right in my case. =P