Thursday, February 01, 2007

GREAT FASCINATION

When I teach family relationship vocabulary in English, once we have looked at one or two basic family trees and students have talked about their own families, I usually show them a House of Windsor family tree. Everybody knows about Charles, Diana and Camilla and students usually like to ask questions about it all. This week one student of mine was fascinated by the term “great” in a family tree and couldn’t stop laughing when I explained that we have “great great “ and even “great great great” grandmothers and grandfathers. “What? You go on adding ‘greats’ even if you are talking about five generations back?!” she exclaimed in Italian. [Italian uses bisnonno, trisnonno for great and great great grandfathers.] I replied that this is, indeed, the case and didn’t have the heart to tell her that very few people in Britain would know their family history that far back. [Or maybe I’m wrong, given the recent interest in genealogy generated by the internet.] The same student was delighted to know about Camilla’s great grandmother having been the mistress of Charles’s great great grandfather. This gave me the opportunity to teach an idiom: “It runs in the family”!

13 comments:

Ellee said...

Actually, their version of "great" for families makes more sense. What about in-laws, can they make sense of that? I bet you are a great teacher, and I bet your students are very well behaved.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Ellee. Yes, I suppose it does - all these "greats" get me confused in English and it's my language! Well, I teach adults mostly, now, so they want to learn and there's no behaviour problem. I am very careful as to when I introduce what and of course I couldn't go into "great greats" and all that with most beginners or teenagers. But there are certain students you know you can "push" a bit, and, provided you prepare well and control tenses used, you can move them on quite a bit without their realising it. For what they can understand will always be more, for several years, than what they can produce linguistically. Here endeth the WL lecture on ESOL! In-laws: they find our terms quite amusing, too, because Italian has distinctive words for all these relationships. This goes to show that English is the poorer language in terms of lexis - but don't start me on that!.

Lee said...

I'm not sure if any of my 'forefathers' were 'great'! I only had one father, not four, and I never got to meet him! So that wasn't so great...or maybe it was! ;)

james higham said...

You're right - most wouldn't know. Nice post, Welshcakes.

Steve G said...

I guess I missed a previous post. You are teaching Enlaish to Italian children. Private or in the school system?

Shirl said...

I'd gathered you might be teaching ESOL - right at the chalkface (or is that volcanic ashface?). I'm sure it is rewarding - as you say, your students want to learn!

Incidentally, Pricess Diana died on my birthday in 1997 - it was a momentous day and not a celebration at all, for a couple more years really. We've moved on now so I can enjoy the day again.

Ellee said...

I certainly wish you had taught me foreign languages, it's on my wish list, one day I would love to be fluent in a couple more languages.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Ciao, Lee. I never got to know my biological Dad, either, as I was adopted. But, as Ellee knows, my Dad was the wonderful man who brought me up . You just can never know how these things might have turned out.
Thanks, James.
Steve, no, you haven't missed a post. I am teaching some adults privately now and am trying to build up a portfolio of this kind of work.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Shirl. Yes, "volcanic ashface"! When I got out of sec school teaching in Britain, I had an interpreting job for a while, then the company moved to London so I went into adult ed. Knowing I would one day move here, I did the CELTA qualification in Prague a few years ago and spent my last few years in Britain happily teaching English to adults and now I am trying to get more work in this line here.
Ellee, I'm sure you'd have been my star student!

Ballpoint Wren said...

Welshcakes, genealogy is my secret vice! I spend hours on it. Most people barely know who their grandparents are, other than "Nana" or "Gramps!"

If you ever need any U.S. searches done, please, let me know. I live close to the largest genealogical collection of materials in Southern California (only Sacramento has a bigger library) and I love a good hunt.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Bonnie, how interesting! I didn't know you had such an extensive library there. I might well take you up on that offer one day!

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

I would love to learn a language, I tried learning French a few years ago, it was all going well, then a hiccup in my life came along, but I am still trying. Which ever country I go to, I try and learn a few phrases...but it is difficult if you don;t keep it up or are unable to mix with people who speak it everyday.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Anne. I agree with you - it's so important to learn at least the "politenesses" if you are going to visit another country. Yes, language learning is difficult if you can't practise but don't give up!

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