A Few Thoughts about Teaching English

Sometimes I’ve thought that people whose native language is not English should read The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss. There is so much rhyming in it. “What would you do if your mother asked you?” it says in the story. I’ve thought about this because of the word “would”. For someone learning English, “would” can be a little difficult.

“Would” in my mind is like “will” up in a cloud. “Should” is like would, not only up in a cloud, but up in a cloud on a guilt trip. Maybe I have a strange way of looking at this. I would have gone to the baseball game, but my cousin broke his leg and I went to visit him in the hospital. I would like to order a pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms and jalapenos. Wouldn’t it be great if the beach was at our back door?

Another thought I’ve had while giving my online English lessons deals with tense. Even the meaning of tense is confusing. We can think of tense, meaning stiff and nervous or tight. But tense in grammar deals with time. I found myself telling a Chinese boy (who takes my classes) about the Romans who spoke Latin 2,000 years ago. Tempus means time in Latin. I explained to him that in Spanish, tiempo means time. This comes from Latin. Telling him this seemed like a good idea because he studies world history in school and learning a language is not just about the language, but it is also about history. I think learning a language should include some history because languages don’t just spring up overnight. There is a history behind any language.

I listen to my students as they talk. I love to talk to them and to listen to them. I actually really like picking up any problems in tense usage. I don’t love it because I am mean. I love it maybe because my own family was nit picky about words when I was growing up. I like correcting my students in their English grammar. This is what they have hired me to do. This is something you really can’t do to people who were born speaking English. I can’t correct the locals around me when they say “I have went”. I hate it, but I can’t correct them because they have no idea their English is wrong and they are so acclimated to using “I have went”.

I love giving these Skype classes because I learn so much from my students. I get to learn ancient Chinese history. I get to learn first hand about the movement to make Catalonia an independent country. I get to learn about Serbia and Croatia. I got to learn how to make fish sauce from a Vietnamese doctor who took my classes for a period of time. I got to learn about picking mushroom in a village in Russia. I’ve had a chance to get a feel for Saudi Arabia. All of this is because people want to practice their English with me. It is so great.

I am a little sleepy now as it is late at night. But later, hopefully I give more thoughts about giving these online English classes.