Sunday, September 30, 2007

Switching Identities


To start off with, here's a letter I found on the English Teachers' List, and I promply honoured it with an answer.

----- Original Message -----
From: Barnett
To: Etni
Sent: Sunday, September 30, 2007 3:55 PM
Subject: [etni] Teaching the article
Joe Barnet wrote:
Dear etniers,

Our local English grammar textbooks are designed for Hebrew speakers and take rules common to the two languages for granted. As a consequence they overlook first language interference from other languages. Immigrant or simply migrant students from other countries, irrespective of their knowledge of Hebrew, may have serious difficulties quite beyond the scope of our textbooks and regular TEFL teachers.

Russian speakers are a case in point. Although I have never learnt this language, I understand that (like Latin) it does not use any articles, neither definite nor indefinite. This means that one the basic tasks for Russian-speaking students is to decipher what seems to them our arbitrary habit of prefixing a noun alternately with a, an, the, some, any or even zero. (like Zero Mostel, Zero Gravity, Zero Degrees? / ed.)

I have found no systematic treatment of this grammar point in the many British, American or Israeli TEFL grammars in my personal library. I need something which starts from scratch. If anyone can suggest a source of teaching materials, rules and exercises I would be most grateful.

Moadim LeSimha,

Joe Barnett

My response was instantaneous:

Hey Joe,
Where yoo gowine with dat gun in yo' hand?

Pardon me.

I slipped into a random association there.

Start again.

Dear Joe,

You think you got problems teaching students from Russia because they have no articles? ( Stalin executed 5 million direct articles during his reign of terror and another 7 million during his snoghw of terror.) In Winnipeg and the surrounding Manitoba prairie communities, there is no word for 'Benchmark.' Fortunately, most of the thousands of Manitoban Olim are exempt from the English Bagrut anyway and can pick five points in curling.

(Hmmmm: Maybe the Jeru'sell'em Post would like an article with the headline "Manitoban Olim Pick Games?")

Whew! Makes you wonder why so many people urge me to keep writing. It's twue, it's twue, they really do. And now that I've got your attention on this page...
It's been a rough day here in Kiriat Shmona. If this area, dubbed the Galilee panhandle, is a panhandle, than Kiriat Shmona is the hole in the end that the screw goes through to hang the pan on the wall. My bike just had a total breakdown and we are expecting the new back wheel assembly to take a few more days to arrive. I've put on six kilo from all the holiday face stuffing and the only exercise I got today was loading the car with more groceries to get us through the final holiday and then another Shabbat. Billious William, on the other hand, was more adventurous, and went marching along the highway picking up all the returnable cans and bottles he could get his hooks on. At least one of his hooks isn't metaphorical, it's a 80 cm long plastic spring and pulley device that can lift objects up to half a kilo with out bending one's knees, and can dexterously pick a coin off the road or retrieve a fallen Yemenite Etrog.
Or even a small Yemenite. I just spent ten minutes trying to find it on Google just to prove that such an ingenious tool exists, but no luck. Bill bought it for 20 bucks when he was still on his back after the accident, and since then has put it to dozens of uses, mostly involving lost socks.
Today's WORD IN ARABIC is 'moo FEY j'uh' which means surprise.
Bill was quite mooFEYj'uh'd to find, among the bottles, a cluster of Israeli ID cards, or 'Te'oodot Zehoots,' if one can give a Teudat Zehut an English plural ending, still in their shiny navy blue cases. This really happened, and when he got home and looked up the numbers of the owners, he was more aMAYj'uh'd to discover that
a: all the Te'ooda losers' mothers were named Dalia, and
b: they all live on the same row of houses in Tsfat, next door to each other, and they all claim not to know the other ones.

This is par for the course for Bilious, who prides himself as a most law abiding citizen, as long as the Law is Murphy's. Furthermurther, Bill himself lost his own Teudat Zehooot a few days back, most likely by letting it slip out the car door as he went out to find another ten shekels worth of bottles. It costs a lot of money to replace your ID card, to deter nasty types who would otherwise run to sell their ID's to the nearest criminal or terrorist for a mess of hummous. Billious has an additional difficulty in renewing his documents; He still clings to the punny Hebrish he used back in Ulpan, when he needed a Teudat Zehut as well as a Teudat Oleh, and still refuses to call his ID anything other than a Too'ot Sadeh. To this day, the Ministry of the Interior keeps sending him fruit baskets.

Note: I finally found the picture of the reaching tool, but this fershlugginah blog program won't let me upload any more pictures, and you'll have to find it for yourself, like all essential truths. No, here it is. It came up ten minute later.
I could have looked under the bed my self in all that time.
Good night,

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