Relearn

It’s getting warm here in Busan. While it’s a beautiful day, people I’ve talked to seem to have the same thought: This is just the beginning. In about a month or so things will start to become downright unbearable. But until that time, I’ll enjoy the sunshine.

I’ve never done any English teaching here. I don’t know how to do it. But a colleague suggested that I give my assistant some lessons so that she can get a good score on her TOEIC test coming at the end of the month. If she scores well, there’s a chance for her to take advantage of some interesting possibilities coming on the horizon. At the same time, I could get help from her; she could teach me some conversational Korean.

Today was our first lesson. Damn, it was hard. Hard for her yes, but for me too. English is one crazy fucking language. For example, she wanted to know the difference between “other” and “the others”:

This apple is fresh.
The other apples are rotten.
(or) The others are rotten.

Her question: Why isn’t it “others apples”? I had to think really hard about this. I finally figured out that “others” becomes the noun that replaces “apples” in the second version, and is therefore plural. But in the first version, “other” is an adjective. Adjectives are never plural. At least, I think that’s what’s going on. Her next question: “Okay, so what’s ‘another?'” I made a big sigh and had to give this some thought as well. But eventually we worked our way through it.

You’re in a job interview. You don’t get the job. Someone else did.
“Another person got the job.” (true only if there are several other applicants)
“The other person got the job.” (true only if you were competing with just one other person.)

Later we went over nouns of undefinable quantity: news, luggage, stationary, etc. A single one of each is a “piece,” or a “bit.” Then we tackled the insurmountable problem of: in, to, at, by, with. For instance, are you interested in someone, or interested by someone? Are you engaged in medical research, or with medical research. I tried like hell to find some consistency with the rules, but then my head finally exploded. I couldn’t communicate it to her. Then I taught her a new word: “self-evident” — when you know, you know. “It’s okay,” she said. “I’ll memorize.”

Around this time, two of my other students happened to pass by, so they came in to visit. One of them spent a year in the States and speaks great English. So I asked the three of them to give me a few Korean phrases. They gave me some good stuff for class:

Be quiet!
Don’t fall asleep!
Let’s take a break now.

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2 Responses to “Relearn”

  1. I taught a very smart Mexican lady ESL for 2 or 3 years. It got to be hard for me for the very reasons you describe. English is a difficult language.
    “Another” is “an other,” or “one other,” so you got it right.

  2. I guess “an” other (another) is an unspecific other, whereas “the” other is one of two things that go together. I used an example of a pair of gloves. “The other glove”; not “an other glove” or “another glove.”

    I think I told her something wrong though… “Others” isn’t a noun, it’s a pronoun. …at least I think?

    I probably shouldn’t be giving her lessons. Maybe I’m making things worse for her.

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