English as a Third Language (ETL)

For the last few months, I’ve volunteered my time as a literacy tutor at the local library. The students vary from native English speakers to immigrants – all of whom need to learn how to communicate and read for their job and day to day life. It’s been a rewarding experience for me and something I look forward to every week. I work with my student on sight words during each session, then switch into reading short stories from the provided literature.

Usually, I’ll go through the cabinets before my tutoring session begins to find a story for my student to read. Something that is on his level but also still challenges him. Two weeks ago I just happened to glance at the ESL (English as a Second Language) shelf and noticed a book titled A Field Guide to Southern Speech – A twelve-gauge lexicon for the duck blind, the deer stand, the skeet shoot, the bass boot, and the backyard bar-b que.

I kid you not.

I was flabbergasted. Not only because it was in the ESL shelf, but because it was stacked with the legitimate textbooks, not in the nonexistent joke and riddle book stack. Looking past the blantant misspelling of Arkansas (and every other southern state) on the cover, I discreetly placed the book in my purse to protect the innocent and examine further at home.

Now I wished I never had.

I know, as Southerners, many of us have a sort of slang that we use to communicate with our close friends and family. My slang has been known to be riddled with “fixin’ to” and “y’all”, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to teach an ESL student those words right off the bat. I also wish the worst word/phrase in this book was “ain’t”, but it’s not.

I weep for the students that possibly could have been taught English with this book and here’s some examples why:

chill wrens: young humans.

poultry: rhythmic, often rhyming verse

cain’t: contraction of can and ain’t.

toe up: extremely upset, overwrought.

hottern: a measure of relative warmth.

sea gulls: observe women.

yearn: not mine.

hyar: not thar.

narrow: ammunition for a bonarrow.

warsh: clean with soap and water.

dade: deceased.

yawl: second person plural pronoun. There is no singular.

Forget English.

Southern: It’s your second language.

One comment

  1. Alicia · February 14, 2011

    And…here is an interesting tidbit. When I was in grade school-Arkansas actually WAS spelled either way! I clearly remember spelling it “Arkansaw” and when it was changed to the current spelling, as well as when they changed the state “ARK” to the current “AR” ! Cool huh?

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