Preschool as a second language

For two weeks I've been teaching essential English to a three year-old Chinese speaker.  I'm speaking "like a broken record", an idiom none of my students will ever understand:

to say the same thing over and over again. (Fig. on a scratch in a phonograph record causing the needle [or stylus] to stay in the same groove and play it over and over.)

All my other speech is taking on this repetitive quality with consistent short phrases and inflections.  Some of the phrases might seem naughty if taken out of context.  That was a problem when my eldest son, Mr. Speech-Debate was still sitting in his highchair. We subscribed to a Johnson and Johnson infant toy program in the early Eighties, and received a developmentally appropriate toy of the month.  The toys were well-made and visually appealing.  One toy was notoriously named the "stand-up man".  It was a suction toy for the high chair tray, useful at restaurants if you didn't mind being stared at by other diners who acted like we were filming a porn video.  We would ask tiny Jeffy, "Say, can you make this man stand up?"  Jeffy was good at responding to that verbal cue, and could always pull the string to make this man stand up.  Each time I tell my Chinese student, "pants all the way off," I use the same wording and inflection.  Thank heaven I'm not saying it at the Pizza Hut on Ames Avenue in Omaha.

We shepherded the new students through their very first fire drill, learned to get nap mats and blankies out of our cubbies and arrange them in the Nap Room.  I'm glad most of the kiddies don't need to wear pull-up diapers at naptime.

A somewhat accurate log of our ESOL progress follows.
  • Go pee pee
  • All finished
  • NO!
  • Green
  • Flush
  • Soap
  • Shoes 
  • Here (roll call)
  • Hat
  • Lunchbox
  • Push in your chair
  • Hands in your lap
  • Please check my work
  • Pants all the way off
  • Diaper on 
  • Stool
  • Sink
  • Placemat
  • Banana
  • My name
  • Sit on the line
  • Get your box
  • Put out your nap things
  • Blanket
  • Doggie
  • Fold your red mat
  • Walk to me
  • Bring it to me
  • Line up
  • Hold hands
  • Put it in your cubby
  • Use both hands
  • Raise your hand
  • Watering can
  • Which is the biggest one?
  • Ring the bell

© 2011 Nancy L. Ruder

1 comment:

Kim said...

My kids go to the elementary school that has the ESL program for their district. When I volunteer in the library I notice the little girls from China can whip through the computer lessons faster than a speeding bullet in spite of how much English they speak. I love the international flavor of our school, too. My kids know kids from the Congo, Kenya, Japan, China, Mexico, and a few Middle Eastern countries.


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