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.