ESL Adventures

This past semester was Matthew’s first foray into the world of teaching English as a second language. It’s not just a means to a visa, but a great way to meet new people and collect some funny / awkward stories along the way. Arguably, the hardest part of teaching is not laughing when you want to. Here are a few examples:

  • Once while teaching a private lesson, Matthew’s student was sharing about his time in Berlin and said he was surprised at “how many Turkeys were there”. It took us a while to figure out he meant Turkish people.
  • Matthew had a male student that was forever making paper balls and juggling them. One day Matthew re-entered the classroom after the mid-class break to find a female student shredding the paper balls and the male student loudly protested to Matthew, “she broke my balls”.
  • With some of his younger students, Matthew was teaching vocabulary about how to describe someone’s appearance. One female student was describing another female student and announced, “she has a kok”. Fighting back the initial shock, Matthew then learned “kok” is the Polish word for “pony tail”.
  • There was a student in one of Matthew’s teenage classes who would constantly forget her English vocabulary. Once, in the span of 2 sentences, she struggled to think of the English words for the following Polish words: “kosmetyki”, “katalogi”, and “produkty” (cosmetics, catalogs, and products).
  • Working with some students on clothing vocabulary, Matthew was having them describe pictures from a magazine. A male student said of 2 girls in the magazine, “these girls come with baggage”. They were holding large purses.

Could you have kept a straight face through these moments or explained the double meanings so your students avoid their use in the future? It’s a true teaching challenge.


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