March 26, 2012


This brings back a few memories.  As I was painting and sweeping and picking up trash and peeling off wallpaper and watching cement falling off the ceiling and watching Season 1 of Dexter (thank you, Gary), I had a bit of free time to think about what to write about in today’s blog.  Like most Sundays, I was home alone – well, with six cats.  No one to chat with, no phone calls, no class preparations… in other words, a thinking day on my own.  If this had been a different time, I would probably have gone for a scooter ride through Tainan county.

During a bit of a break time, something drew me over to my shelf of teaching materials.  I’m not sure exactly why I was drawn to this shelf, and not exactly sure what I was looking for or going to find.  I did come across a few issues of two magazines I used to be able to pick up here in Tainan.  I’m not sure if these publications are still in existence, but when I first moved here in 2003, Cave’s Bookstore used to have them available for free.

Both publications are basically the same kind of magazine.  They provided listings of restaurants and bars, articles from submitters in Tainan, and basic information that would be of use to foreigners in Tainan.

It was about the end of 2003 that I was contacted by one of these publications, RICKSHAW: The Entertainment Guide to Southern Taiwan, to consider being an English editor and possibly to submit articles to be included in the publication.  I remember being a bit surprised and intrigued.  After a couple of weeks to consider this offer, I decided to accept the offer – and challenge!

One of the first articles I wrote for them, which was published in the January 2004 issue, was an essay about some of the challenges I faced, teaching the younger children here Taiwan.  Coincidentally, the title of the article was the same as above… “Is it ORANGE or ORANGIE?”

As this is my article, I have given credit to the publication, and there was no remuneration for this essay, below is retyped for your enjoyment.

“We as foreign teachers, have many challenges teaching the youngsters in Taiwan.  One of the greater challenges is trying to help them understand the difference between pronunciation of letters and words from their mother tongue to English.

“Many teachers I have spoken to over the past couple of years, have tried, sometimes in vain, to change the way children pronounce the colour and noun, ORANGE.  You know what I’m talking about – orange vs. orangie.

“My first ‘gig’ here in Taiwan, was working in small community south of Tainan.  I tried for a long time to get the children to pronounce the word ‘orange’ correctly.  Then, one day, after about two weeks of pressing the children and having them getting it down pat, I went into class and they were saying ‘orangie’ again.  Their teacher then took me aside and told me that I was pronouncing the word incorrectly.

“I was under the impression that, having been born in Canada, speaking English and a bit of French, that I was actually pronouncing the word correctly.  However, here was a Chinese teacher, who had told me that she had never been outside of Taiwan in her life, informing me that I was mispronouncing the word.  It came as a big surprise to me.

“The next day, the children went back to pronouncing ‘orange’ correctly.

“We English speakers are taught that the letter ‘I’ is not pronounced as the letter ‘E’.  However, as with many of our words, that is subject to change, depending on the adjoining letters.  In some languages, such as Chinese and French, the letter ‘I’ does in fact, sound like our English pronunciation of ‘E’.

“I have finally convinced my kindergarten sweethearts (after months of pretending to be stabbed in the heart when they pronounce it wrong) that the word ‘orange’ sounds like ‘oranj’.  At first, that was a struggle, because they then wanted to say ‘oran-J’.  But they seem to understand now, and when the want to get a reaction from me, they intentionally will pronounce it wrong, and laugh at me ‘dying’ on the classroom floor.

“But how, once you’ve convinced them of the pronunciation and they seem to get it, they then come up with words like “Lillian” or “ski”?  Hmmm, another lesson plan – cool!

“Another obstacle that seems to be a challenge at times is our silent ‘e’ at the end of words.  The children are taught in school that to have a vowel make a long sound, one way to achieve this is ‘vowel-consonant-silent ‘e”, as in the word “lake”.

“And now, I’ve come across this problem – the children can’t understand that only one consonant makes the difference.  If two or more consonants come between the vowel and the ‘silent-e’, then the rule no longer applies.  So, what I end up hearing is “apple” with a long-a sound.  Hmmm.

“Some typical pronunciation situations we deal with:

   1.  Words ending in ‘K’, such as ‘pink’.  How many times have we heard ‘pinka’?

   2.  The letter ‘L’ being pronounced ‘ella’?

3.  For all of us non-Americans, how difficult is it to get used to saying ‘ZEE’ rather than ‘ZED’?

4.  Where did ‘so-so’ come from?  As this question (“How are you?”) and see how many children say, “I’m so-so.”  I try encourage the children to say, “I’m fine,” or “I’m okay.”

5.  ‘or’ at the end of words, instead of ‘our’, as in ‘color’ vs. ‘colour’; ‘neighbor’ vs. ‘neighbour’

“These are just a few of the ‘typical’ situations I deal with on a regular basis.  Your experiences will probably differ from mine, and I invite anyone to provide more examples.

“One thing though I have noticed from all the teachers I’ve had the pleasure of watching and hearing is their extreme patience.  We do seem to understand or at least try to understand what the children are saying or trying to say.  We help them to correct their pronunciation, and pretend to ‘die’ when it’s pronounced wrong, rather than scold the children.

“We have to work with them, not against them.  I admire the work we all do, and there are some very good teachers out there.  You know who you are.  Your students start chanting your name every time you walk into the school, or even towards the school.  They want to give you hugs and kisses.

“Children, as I’ve discovered, are amazing creatures.  With enough encouragement they will learn anything you want to teach them.  With enough stickers, they will REMEMBER it!”

This article did bring back a few memories of years past, and even though I’ve grown as a teacher, and the children I taught back then are now in Junior or Senior High School, some of the issues have not changed.

That’s it, that’s all… for now!


1 Comment

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One response to “March 26, 2012

  1. Hey! Talk about bringing back memories. I co-founded Rickshaw back in 1998 with David Burger, but moved back to the US a couple of years later for personal reasons. I’m glad to hear it was still running in 2003.

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