Wednesday, September 11, 2013

So, There's This

I'm not entirely sure what this is, but I felt greedy keeping it to myself when there are many laughs to be had. Enjoy.

Additionally, another hilarious thing happened today. I was feeling a little grumpy today when struggling through some of the typical things foreign teachers deal with when teaching in Thailand (on which I do not want to extrapolate, as it will sound negative, and I don't mean or wish to convey that message). Personally, one of my weaknesses is listening to pronunciation.

When Thais learn English, there are a couple of pronunciation errors that are prevalent- complete removal of "dead" consonants (when the tongue interrupts the stream of air- consider "dad," "think," and "pig"- the d, k, and g would all be omitted when spoken) and adding an "uh" sound after an "s" or a "t." However, because I've studied some Thai, there are perfectly understandable reasons for these spoken habits.

To address the first issue, when Thai words end in a "dead consonant" (d, t, k, p, a short vowel, etc.), that letter is only half aspirated. For example, in the word Jeep, you'd say Jee-, but the "p" would only sound as much as your lips cut off the air for the letter, so it sounds like a b/p sound, but not the following soft "-uh" that escapes as your lips reopen. Therefore, when kids say English words, and not having enough worldly experience to understand that all languages do not mimic the same rules as their own, "dad" becomes "da," "think" becomes a bastardized "thing," and a "pig" is a "piiiiii." Secondly, ศาสนา, or saasanaa (religion) is a good example of the latter difficulty. The สน is literally an "s" and "n" smashed together, but that blend doesn't exist in Thai, nor does any other "s" consonant blend (except for Sri (ศรี) like in Nakorn Sri Thammarat (นครศรีธรรมราช), but even then it is pronounced "Sii"). So, one has to memorize what vowel sound goes between, either a short "a" or "aw" sound. In this case, it's a short "a" sound. So when I ask kids to say "school," I often get a "sa-koon," (I can explain the "n" later, if you want) and not a "school."

Again, I was a bit grumpy this morning. At one point,while teaching a fifth grade class, kids were practicing their counting and when they got to "twenty," they were saying "ta-wenty, ta-wenty one, ta-wenty two..." and on this particular day, it was really bothering me. I interrupted, under the guise of "teaching correct English," but definitely with the ulterior motive of finding some relieve from hearing incorrect English much of the day. I modeled how to say "twenty" properly and asked the students to say repeat it to practice.

I always watch the students's mouths to note if they're mouths are moving in the way they should be to replicate the sounds accurately. The first kid I look at accidentally spits some large chunk of something from out of his mouth while repeating the word. I don't know if it was the frustration, the stress of work lately, some unholy combination, or what exactly, but I lose it.

I immediately start laughing hard, but try to save face and keep it under wraps... But I can't look away and I can't stop laughing. Tears start streaming, so I turn my back to the students and bellowing laughter just pours out of me. I can hear confusion and giggles behind me, but I can't rein it in my laughter. For about a minute, I'm just dying. I finally get it together, but the first thing I do is stupidly look back at the same kid. He has this "I have no idea what you're laughing about" face, and I can't control it. I laugh even harder this time and have to turn around yet again.

Only by some miracle was I able to get my shit together and successfully teach my way through the end of class.

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