Monday, January 28, 2008

Wnat did you think of the concert last night?

Nina was alone today. We bumped into Nina and Anton at a fantastic concert last night, given by a young South Korean violinist, born in Germany. That seemed to good a coincidence not to exploit , so I produced the following simple dialogue.

A: What did you think of the concert last night?

B: I thought it was fantastic. /marvellous

A: I agree. The violinist was extraordinary. I don’t mind admitting that at the end of the third piece there was water in my eyes. Her playing was very, very moving.

B: The pianist was outstanding, too.

First though, I checked with Nina that she wants to work on her pronunciation Yes. So, after a couple of words about how important it is to get vowel sounds correct (conforming to the norm) for the sake of comprehensibility (This in German, course) we worked on:

/i:/ /i/ /e/ /ae/ (Pardon my rough phonetic symbols).

Predictably, /i/ causes a problem.

I made sure she understood, first (German. Don't tell anyone I'm using German) and she had the text, and then, to her initial dismay I made her turn the paper over and we went through the dialogue and I concentrated on getting her to repeat after me, paying attention to everything going i.e. intonation and stress as well as sounds. Then, not wanting to bully, I let her have the text and we took turns, reading out the lines of the dialogue. She asked if we could swap roles and do it a final time.

With 10 - 15 minutes to go I switched to "Free conversation" !!!

Having drilled her in a fake conversation, I wanted to see if we could have a real conversation. "With a little help....." It is amazing how far we got.

We talked about the concert. "What did you think about the concert last night, Nina.
What about the pianist.
I asked her if she played an instrument - no, but Anton plays the violin.
Where was the violinist born?
Where was she born?
Where was Anton born?
I knew she had a son. Where was your son born?
Has Anton got a son? Ho. He has two daughters.
Have you any brothers or sister?
Two sister.
z z z z z

Two sisters.

I also managed to bring in uncle, aunt and mother-in-law because they are off to visit Anton's first wife's mother.

We worked hard but Nina said again that I make her believe she can learn some English. And she liked the fact I correct her, but sparingly: "Anton corrects everything that I get wrong and that makes me angry.


Anonymous said...

Question: do you think that people can accept their partner as a teacher? I ask this because I suspect that the power dynamic in a personal relationship is not the same as that in a teacher-student relationship. I know both of these are broad categories but I have found that there is quickly seems to develop a language of communication in a personal relationship that is difficult (I suspect impossible) to shift. The teacher-student dynamic has a teacher-corrects-student function implicit in it so correction in that telationship is not noticed by either party as much as partner-corrects-partner which is a major thing in a lot of personal relationships.

Dennis said...


I suspect, both from experience and thinking about it, that a partner does not normally make the ideal teacher. Think of all the warnings about letting your partner teach you to drive. If you are serious about learning something new, I don't think friends are a good idea, either. It is too easy for them to cancel meeting at the last moment because they can rely on you r understan ding.