Wednesday, October 26, 2011

...a language faux pas

My friend and former ELL teaching partner back home just reminded me of a story I've been meaning to tell.  Some background information:
  • I teach at an all-girls school.
  • The girls here are very sheltered.
  • They are very chatty.
  • Raising my voice only adds to the noise.
I was trying to come up with a signal to get the girls to settle down, so I printed off a sheet with several phrases:
  • Please be quiet.
  • Quiet, please!
  • Hush!
  • Keep it down!
  • Chill!
  • Zip it!
I slipped this into the back pocket on my notebook, and when I wanted their attention would quietly raise it and wait.  For some reason it had the opposite effect than what I was hoping for.  The girls got louder, and laughed and giggled even more.  I got stern with them and told them that when the notebook was in the air, they were to be quiet.  "Now ZIP IT!" I said.  It took a few times for this to happen before I wised up and asked someone what could possibly be so funny about the phrases.

Um, well, yeah..."zip it" sounds like the slang word for a certain male body part in Arabic. Imagine yourself in a foreign language class and having the teacher repeatedly say a certain slang word to you in English.  Needless to say, "zip it" is no longer on my list of phrases. 


Arlene said...

I thought with all new languages you were supposed to learn the "naughty" words first.

Kat Ballou said...

I love it. You don't even have to be in a foreign country to have it happen. It happens to me with Cree and Ojibwe at my schools, too.

Early said...

Stories like that are worth a million pennies.

Doozyanner said...

Arlene, in the company of women and girls, whom do you suggest I ask to teach me the naughty word?? ha!
Moira, I'm sure a variation of this story takes place all over the globe.
Chris, Yes!! At least a million. :-)

Arlene said...

seems to me you have already learned one. tee hee