Tuesday, March 31, 2009

All in a day's work

On my way to class yesterday, I ran into one of my students just as she came out of the bathroom. For some reason, she felt inclined to interject that her stomach hurt and it must be bad food. I felt this information was slightly unnecessary, but at least I knew the reason in case she quickly rushed out of the room in the middle of class. We entered the classroom, and she headed to her desk while I began to set things up. A few minutes later, she approached me with her electronic dictionary grasped tightly in hand.

"I have loose bowels. Is that correct?"

I immediately struggled to suppress the pre-teen in me that wanted to giggle and smirk, and the twenty-something that wanted to look slightly shocked at the question. Composing myself, I responded. "Yes, that probably is a correct description."

I could have left it at that. But I'm an English teacher. I consider it my duty to teach students how to correctly and appropriately communicate in English. And I sensed a teachable moment here. I didn't want to be responsible for this student walking up to an English-speaker and announcing, "I have loose bowels." (Confession: a pre-teen giggle just escaped as I typed that.) I mean really, when is the last time (exempting maybe those in the medical profession) you heard someone use that expression? So, I continued my lesson.

"But we would more likely use the word diarrhea to explain that problem."




"Yes." But I didn't stop there. Because we also don't approach acquaintances and announce that we have diarrhea (Unless you live in China, where your bowels are a frequent topic of conversation among your fellow foreign compatriots. Are you disgusted? Sorry, it's just a fact of life for us here.). "But unless you're talking to close friends, we usually just say, 'My stomach hurts.' Or, 'I'm having stomach problems.'"

"So I say, I'm having stomach problems."


"Thanks Miss Katherine!"

With a smile she returned to her desk, and I suppressed yet another chuckle at the conversation that had just transpired.

In other news: it's still winter. I hope you read the appropriate amount of disgust into that sentence. I just washed my long underwear. For the last time. I don't care how cold it is; I will NOT wear long underwear in April. Take that long lingering winter.

1 comment:

Twice Blessed China Mom said...

Loved this story! Experiences like this make teaching ESL so fun for me! When I first started teaching refugee students, we said ESL stood for Eating as a Second Language, as we did so much cooking with the kids. It was good to catch up on your blog tonight! Have a great weekend!