Tuesday, May 17, 2005


See... that title is sort of a spin-off of "Spanglish." Get it? See? It's clever.

So* I signed up to be an ESL tutor at The International Center downtown on west 23rd street. Sean thinks this sounds cool, like it's The Center of the WORLD. He also thinks my church calling (primary secretary) sounds cool too, for basically the same reason.

Anyhow, so yesterday was my 2nd training class. We meet with a teacher from 6-8pm and there are volunteers and members (<-- those learning English). We have activities with a partner that we do throughout the class. Here are things I learned:

1) the sounds [ch], [j], [dg], and sounds in words ending in "sion" as in "lesion" all = the [z] sound (in Korean).

2) English has 11 vowel sounds and Korean has 10.

3) When saying a word ending in "th" and making it plural as in "mouths" or "months" you really have to flick back that tongue pretty fast. And don't let it get too far away between moving it from your teeth to right behind your teeth.

Jacob (<-- English name) aka Jaekap (<-- Korean name) was actually a pretty good speaker. I just typed "spaker." Yes, I'm actually the one doing the tutoring. I'M the tutor. Anyway, Jaekap had the [r] vs [l] down pretty well. He explained to me how Koreans have to learn the [l] sound. It was something like "we have to put something in front of the tongue.." or I don't know.

Many times throughout the class i tried to show Jaekap my tongue placement but this got a little awkward, especially with words like the [sion] in "confusion." I'm like, "See...see my tongue? Look..shz.. look between my closed teeth." Yeah, it was kind of hard.

We had these word pairs like "pat" and "bat." "fat" and "vat." With both words in the pair, your mouth stays the same except in one (vat, for instance) you use your voice to make the [v] sound as opposed to with the [f] sound, which is just letting air out. So with "sion," the word pair was "Confucian" and "confusion." Jaekap could do the "sh" sound which is just letting air out. But with [sion] you're doing the exact same thing (with your mouth), just using your voice. So I said, "Ok, do 'shh...' now use your voice! Go, now! Before your air runs out!" But he would say, "shhh....zzzz.." Hmm. We tried everything i could think of. "Ok, keep your mouth still. Don't move it. It's completely frozen, in ice." But again: "Shhh....zzzz.." He laughed because he knew he struggles with it and has forever. Boy, you really have to think about what your mouth does when you talk. I wish I had a plastic mouth with a detachable jaw, and also a tongue. Hey, maybe i could steal that one from Dale Greenwood, DDS. Except i'd need a plastic tongue i could manipulate. Hmm...

The last thing I could think of to help was this: I recalled when Sean squeezes me so fast and hard, it forces the involuntary sound of my voice to come out. "Ok," i said. "Here's something you could try. I won't do it because it would be weird. But, you should have someone squeeze your chest really fast while you're saying the [sh] sound, and then the [shz] sound will come out automatically before you think to move your tongue and say the [z] sound." He looked at me weirdly but smiled politely. Maybe I crossed a cultural line or something. But, I'm a dedicated tutor. Whatever works, man. You're in America now!

* I'd like to fore-apologize for all the ellipses you are going to read. Once I get going, i get a little ellipse-crazy. But don't we all, once in a while. It just can't be helped.


Anonymous said...

Got the CD. Haven't had much time to check it out but will soon. Thanks for sending it. Can't wait to see the pics and your ideas.

Yeah, so i had another class last night and another Korean partner named Hoonth? He first told me a 17-syllable name but said "but that is hard to say so people call me Hoonth" or something. It was more like "hoon" but i noticed his tongue hitting his teeth so i wasn't sure what that was. And yeah, like you said, he had a hard time with p's and f's. I didn't know that was a problem. We worked hard on r's and l's though. Want to know an impossible word? Lurk. The extreme Korean generosity is duly noted...

Anonymous said...

Not me! I whip my tutees into shape. "Lurk! Say it! Saaay it! Lurrrk!"

It's the only way they'll learn.