13 December, 2012

Accchhhooooos and Bless Yous

(Picture courtesy : theotherskeptic.blogspot.com via Google)
Teaching English as a Second Language is quite a challenge.  For that matter, teaching any language to a bunch of kids whose mother tongue is totally different and whose mother tongue follows grammatical and phonetic rules that are completely different to the language you are trying to teach them, is pretty much like scaling a flat face of a tall mountain. 
The gorgeous upside of teaching a second language is the fun element.  An alien language can be intimidating at first but as kids get more and more comfortable using the language, they, bless their little souls, get more and more creative and start experimenting with the language.  The result is at times, hilarious.
Take today morning, for instance.  Just as we were doing the morning greeting, one of the kids sneezed loudly – loud enough for all the other kids to pause in mid-sentence and stare at this little one, whose ears were beginning to turn shades of red.  For a person her size, she sure sneezes loud.  Given her apparent embarrassment and not wanting the whole class to burst out into giggles with little fingers pointing at her, the other teacher in the class tried to divert the kids attention by saying “OK when someone says Accchhhhooo, what do we say ?”.  I guess the only thing the other kids heard was the word “Acchooo” and pretty soon we had “Accchhhhoooos” ringing out loud and clear like church bells, from all possible corners of the classroom.  I swear I heard some from the ceiling as well but then again, it could very well have been my imagination which tends to get rather vivid in a classroom like this !!
“Ok.  Not Achooo.  Listen to me” said the other teacher.  “ When someone says Acchhhooo, we say Bless You” he said to the class.  He had to repeat it again before they got the logic.  The very same little girl, an eager participant in the demo that was about to take place, said Acchhhhooo in a loud voice and most of the class responded with a “Bless You”. 
Now the teacher turned and asked that little girl “When the others say Bless You, what do you say ?” and he got a prompt “Accchhhoo” from her in reply.  Now he had to explain to her that when someone said “Bless You” you need to say “thank you”.  All the achoos and bless yous and thank yous done, we proceeded with the class.
Now though kids are grouped according to their ability and lessons planned with their ability in mind, within the groups there are differences in ability.  Among the weaker ones, there are the strong weak and the weak weak and the weaker weak.  You get the picture, right ?  Many a time, some of the kids finish up with their work and then come over to have a chat with me in English.  I’ve told them they can talk to me or ask me stuff on any topic – only rule – they have to speak in English, not in Cantonese or Putonghua. 
So towards the end of today’s class, while some of the other kids were finishing up with their work, this little girl walked up to where I was standing and told me “I eat the medicine”.  By then, there was a little group that had formed near my table and all the little voices were piping in, just wanting to have a conversation.    
I love these last five minutes or so in all the lower primary classes because on each given day, the group of children are different and they know they can just speak in English and no one’s going to laugh even if they make mistakes.  Some have started carrying this on by stopping to chat in the corridors while I’m on my way to another class or on my way back from another class.  There are a few adventurous ones who seek me out in the staff room and we stand outside the staff room chatting.  All in all, these little snippets of time spent with the little ones is something I love and I treasure. 
End of detour
“Why are you taking medicines ?  Are you not feeling well ?” I asked her.
“Yes. I not well tomorrow” she said, rather earnestly, to her credit.
“Not tomorrow – say yesterday” piped in another little voice.
“Sweetheart – we don’t say tomorrow.  Tomorrow is Friday. Yesterday was Wednesday I said.
“Ah – I not well in Wednesday” she said.
“Oh !  What happened ?” I asked.
That threw her for a bit and I could see her scratching her head and raking all corners of that little head to come up with the vocabulary, put the whole thing together and tell me why she was not in yesterday.  Now, though they are weak in the language, they are bright as little buttons. 
A few seconds passed by while they all huddled together, trying to come up with an explanation in English that I would understand.  A few seconds more and all the little faces looked up at me.  I knew they had reached a consensus. 
“Bless you !” said the little girl.
Hmmm …. It was my turn to look flummoxed.
“I did not say Acchhhoo.  Why did you say bless you ?” I asked.
“Yesterday, I bless you” she said.
“Yesterday, she bless you” said some of the other little ones.
Ah Ha !!  I could virtually hear the clink of the penny dropping down in my head, empty that it is !!
Just as I figured it out, the little ones made it easier for me by saying “Ms.G, yesterday she have the bless you”.
The little girl also piped up saying “yes yes.  Ms.G. Yesterday I have the bless you”.
Bright little buttons, those.  :-))))).
Proves a point – language need not necessarily be a barrier in communication.  There’s sign language, there are signals and gestures and last but not the least, there most definitely are the “bless yous”.
Bless these little ones – for that matter, bless all the little ones in this world.  I tell you, they are the ones that make this world a much better place.

5 voice(s) said so:

Sirisha said...

Aww! Bless them the lil ones :D

Cuckoo said...

Awww Gauri! How lovely. These kids are smart :) Someday I am going to get into the teaching line... someday :) I will bug you then.


Aparna said...

Oh that's the cutest teaching story I have ever heard :). Such a different experience for you, I am glad we get to hear about them too !

Swati Raman Garg said...

i kept reading.. :) bless them all... these lil ones are the saviors.. make d big bad world worthwhile..

Simran said...

Aww that is one sweet experience!! Do you understand the local language? A li'l bit of it? Having a class with kids from mixed backgrounds is great for learning too. My son's kindy here has kids from different countries. So N has started picking up on the local language Maori as well as some Chinese :)