Saving the Sigh

One of my students is  an elderly fellow. He is a very nice man and to chat with him is often a pleasure. To teach him, however, is sometimes less enjoyable. His level of English is quite good, but he has a habit of repeating new words to himself a great number of times when he encounters them. Thus he might be reading a passage about, for example, the weather, and he will say, ‘Japanese summers are very humid… humid, humid, humid, humid, humid humid, humid … but winters are cold and sunny.’ And just when I am about to move on and ask a question or segue into another part of the lesson, he will be off again. ‘So…’ I begin. ‘Humid, humid, humid, humid, humid, humid,’ he replies with closed eyes while knocking on his head with his fist.

This can be annoying, but it is worse when he seems determined to thump an incorrect word into his brain. Such was the case yesterday. The word was ‘hospitable’. He struggled with it. ‘Hospable,’ he said.

‘Hospitable,’ I repeated,

‘Hostibable,’ he tried.


‘Hospitable,’ he said.

‘That’s it,’ I said. ‘Hospitable.’

‘Hospable,’ he said with a cranial knock. ‘Hospable, hospable, hospable, hospable, hospable, hospable.’

I wavered. Was it worth it? ‘Hospitable,’ I said gently.

‘Hospable,’ he smiled. ‘Okay?’

‘Perfect!’ I said.

Sometimes, it’s better to save the sigh.

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2 Responses to Saving the Sigh

  1. Neil Rowlands (Tremault) says:

    I think what I would like to do in this situation is to bring in some words to balance it. hospitable is related to hospitality and hospice and hospital. if the student can get a feel for where the word is placed within the language, they may be able to understand how to construct it properly?
    but then if they do not listen, you’re kinda stuck ^_^;

  2. James says:

    I know how you must feel. I too have students who can not grasp the pronunciation, even after trying multiple ways of getting them to remember and improve.

    I have one lady, and to her credit she does try, who can’t pronounce perfect. She somehow managed to make the pronunciation worse after I tried to help her. It got to the point where she was stressing the ‘fect part of perfect with a strong U strong instead of e, which as you can imagine would probably get a less than positive reaction if used in an English speaking country.

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