Most of my students in Korea had more gadgets in their backpacks than books. Cell phones. MP3 players. Some sort of device I would refer to as a Game Boy because that thing rocked my world in 1989 and I know no other name for a handheld gaming console. And always, always, a crazy little electronic dictionary that spoke in robotic tones and translated English to Hangul, and vice versa.
As you might imagine if you ever tried to learn a language solely by translating individual words, this device wreaked havoc on my lesson plans.
The assignment: Write a paragraph on your favorite subject at school.
The student: Martin. A very, very sweet boy who was smart but had little confidence in his English. His E-dictionary did not get a moment’s rest during class.
I walked the room as they worked, checking on everyone’s progress. Unsurprisingly, most students were writing that English was their favorite subject. History was popular too. One particularly chatty girl needed help spelling “social” for social studies.
I stopped at Martin’s desk and looked at his paper.
The sentence: I have preference for the mathematics so this is a reasonable and logical.
“Martin,” I said. “Is math your favorite subject?”
Eyes wide, he tapped the second half of the sentence.
“Can you tell me without your translator? Why do you like math?”
Frantically, he typed rapid Hangul into the dictionary. “LOGIC,” it burped. The class giggled.
“Ah, you like math because it’s logical,” I said. “That makes sense.”
“Makes sense?” asked Stephanie, a bright student who caught idioms and phrasal verbs like spiders catch flies.
“Yes, it makes sense,” I replied. “That means…well, it means it’s logical.”
“Oh,” said Stephanie. “It makes sense.”
We all looked at Martin. He smiled a little, shaking his head. “English, no.”
“No what?” I asked.
“Make…” He stopped, tapping “Logic” on the screen again.
“You think English isn’t logical?”
“English doesn’t make sense,” agreed Stephanie. “That makes sense.”
It’s amazing how an ESL lesson can turn to vaudeville in moments.
Planning a trip east? Check out these flights to the Dalaman airport.