Well I’ve officially been in my new job in Cambodia 1 week, and I love it already! I have 5 students that I teach every day, and by next week, that should be upped to 7. While it can get a little tiring to sit in the same spot for 5 hours every day, I enjoy interacting with my students so much that I hardly realize when an entire hour has gone by and find myself having to grudgingly end my class with each one as I see the next student enter the room. All of the Khmers (the name given to Cambodian people- pronounced “come-eyes”) are so eager to learn and have a joyful spirit that is truly contagious!
A typical lesson starts with a list of several vocabulary words for the student to define. These words are in relation to a short story from the Bible that the student reads, followed by a few comprehension and discussion questions. It’s funny to me how many seemingly-simple words in English are confusing and hard to define. Try explaining the word “bow” to a student. No problem. It’s that thing girls put in their hair. Oh, wait. Do you mean “bow” as in “bow and arrow”? Or maybe you’re thinking of the front of a ship? Or “bow” as in “take a bow”? Hmmm… That’s an awful lot of explaining for a three-letter word!
Today, I experienced the perfect example of the ambiguity that often goes along with the definitions of English words. While working on the new vocabulary for a particular lesson, my student, Sary, and I had an interesting little digression from the lesson. It started with us trying to define the word “ram”. (Our lesson was about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and how God provided a ram in Isaac’s place.) Anyway, the conversation went something like this: (In case you can’t tell, Sary is “S” and I am “J”)
J: What does the word “ram” mean?
S: *Looking quite confident and proud of herself * “Random-access memory or temporary storage space on chips in a computer”
J: *Trying not to giggle* “That’s true. But since this story is from the Bible, that’s not the kind of ram we will be talking about today. The “ram” we are talking about is a boy sheep. Do you know what a sheep is?
S: *Thinks for a moment and suddenly seems to comprehend* “Oh! I know! It goes on the water!”
J: “No…. That’s a ship. They sound similar, don’t they?
S: *looks confused* “So… sheep…it means more than one ship?”
J: “No. More than one ship is ships, with an ‘s’.” Sheep is an animal with a very soft coat. *draws horrendous stick-figure of a sheep with a cloud-shaped body*
S: “Oh! I know! Sheep!” *seems to finally actually understand*
J: *Relieved, and ready to get back on-task* “Okay, so what is a ram? It is a boy sheep.”
S: “But what do we call a girl sheep?”
J: *Thinks for a minute* “Ummm…I guess just sheep.” It’s the same as with cows. You know, a girl cow is called ‘cow’ and a boy cow is called….”
J: *wonders why she felt compelled to explain this in the first place* “Actually, that’s a different animal. A boy cow is a bull.”
S: *looks very confused* “Bill?”
J: “Let’s move on…”
Needless to say, I am sure I will have plenty of fun stories to tell from my experiences teaching English in Cambodia.
In the meantime, I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Because of work schedules and other obligations, we will be postponing our celebration until this Saturday. Nearly 20 Americans from either PIP or CBI (Cambodian Bible Institute) will be gathering together for a big potluck meal here at Dennis and Sharon’s. It should be lots of fun!
Side note: Yes, I have had it pointed out to me that a female sheep is actually a “ewe”. I’m a city-girl, and I was thinking under pressure!