Today I was teaching some Yemeni and Sudanese women useful language for making an doctor’s appointment. We had a dialogue that I had read with one of the students, and we were going through it sentence by sentence to practice pronunciation.
Some of my students didn’t have the soft /th/ sound in their native dialects, so I showed them how moving their tongues from behind their teeth to between their teeth changed the /s/ sound to the /th/ sound. Then I had them practice blending words, like the way we don’t say “Do you want to make an appointment?” but instead we shove it all together into “D’ya-wanna make ‘n-appoin’ment?” I had them repeat it over and over, first together as a group, then one at a time, again and again.
“You have such patience!” said one student in Arabic.
After I’d taught her how to say the same sentence in English (and showed them how it was not quite the same as a “patient” at the doctor’s), I said, “That’s because I’ve learned several languages, so I’m sympathetic.”
“You know exactly what it’s like!” she agreed.
This is what I love about teaching. We laughed so much that two hours just flew by, and these women not only learned what to say and how to say it, but I could see them gain confidence from the beginning of the lesson to the end. One woman, who was only going to stay a little while until the citizenship class started, was still there at the end of the class, glowing with accomplishment.
A few months ago, when I was hating my job and wishing I could just give up working altogether and become a stay-at-home Mom, a friend said, “We just have to find you a job that doesn’t feel like work.” I found it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t pay any money….