Tuesday, April 21, 2015

An Ah HAH! moment in the WC

It’s Tuesday evening here in New Zealand. As my oldest son says, I’m a crazy time traveler since it is still Monday back in the States.

Tuesday nights are when we go teach English classes to a group of native Chinese speakers.   We had a great time tonight.   

I am responsible for the beginning level class, helping them build basic vocabulary.  Last week we talked about opposites.   We used flash cards  laid out on the table to play “memory” with them having to find opposites for things like long/short, hot/cold, dirty/clean, open/closed, etc.

Tonight we talked about our homes, learning the words for each room and the common things found there.  I got them talking about what was similar and what was different in their homes here as compared to where they had lived in China.  (Most of my students are from Beijing).

One of the words they learned tonight was “Bathroom”.   In China, they refer to it as “WC”.  No one had ever told them what those letters stood for.   They just knew WC meant bathroom.   (Which I find odd since their language has neither a W or a C).   

As we proceeded through the lesson, when we got to the living room I was explaining that "TV" meant the same thing as “Television”.   I reminded them of our previous lesson about opposites,  saying that TV was the short name and Television was the long name for the same thing.   I introduced them to the concept of abbreviations.

Then came something so classic.   Elvis, a very sharp young man in his early 30’s, looked at me and said:  “Excuse me, I have a question.   WC is short name.  What is long name?”

I told him that WC stood for “Water Closet”.   (We had just finished talking about bedrooms so he had learned the word “closet”).      He smiled the most brilliant smile I have ever seen and exclaimed “I never knew that!  YES! Water Closet!”    The others broke out in titters as they finally understood it too.   None of them had previously heard the term “water closet”.  All were incredibly amused at how fitting that name was for the area in their home we call the bathroom.   

From there we went on to an interesting discussion on the relative merits of porcelain western toilets as compared to the squat toilets many of them knew in China.  

 Yes, all in the life of teaching English as a second language.  These are the moments we will always treasure about our mission.

No comments:

Post a Comment