The Birds and the Bears

4:32 pm Spain, TEFL, Uncategorized, holiday, living in spain, money

It’s inevitable that after six months of classes I’ve started becoming pretty good friends with my students. This is my job however, so I do try and maintain a professional distance, but in reality, they come to class every day and we chat about our lives – pasts presents, and futures – and it’s nearly impossible to not become somewhat close after so many early mornings or dragging afternoons.

I’d like to think that my time with them is something they look forward to as a break in the monotony of their workweeks. This camaraderie is great for me, too. Sometimes if I’m having a bad day and it’s written all over my face, my students will just slyly suggest, “Let’s all go for a coffee instead of class!” and so we will. And always, despite my protests, they’ll pick up the bill. “No, no, no, Matt. It is our treat – we take you for coffee, it’s no big deal. Tranquilo!”

Another great thing about all these friendly feelings is the comfort level we have together. My students know their English isn’t perfect, and sometimes when they make mistakes we both feel okay about laughing at ourselves. I wrote a previous entry about the student who talked about killing ten bears in a weekend, but left out the conversation that followed which I thought was hysterical. After realizing that he’d meant birds and not bears, I went on to correct his pronunciation error.

“Jose Luis,” I managed through a fit of laughter, “it’s not bears, it’s birds,” I said slowly, enunciating the differences and pointing to my mouth to show him the different shapes to make for the correct pronunciation. “Say it with me now: birrrrrd.”

“Beeeeaaaar,” he repeated straight faced, looking me in the eye.

“No, that’s beeeeaaaar. Say birrrrrd.”

“Beeeeaaaaar,” he tried again, smiling.

“No,” I corrected, “Bird should sound like word. Try saying word for me.”


“Okay, now – birrrrd.”


Barely able to hold back the laughter any longer, I shook my head and rubbed my face with both hands. “Jose Luis – it’s bird, with a “D.” Say it – birrrr-d.”

“Beeeaaaar-d.” He replied again, sending both of us finally into a fit of hysterics. “My pronunciation is horrible!” he then declared, making us laugh all the harder. After so many months of practice with this advanced student, it struck both of us as hilarious that at such a high level of English, he couldn’t say such a simple word correctly. I wouldn’t ever laugh at a low level student or any student for that matter – not out of spite at least. The thing about this was that I was laughing with him and not at him. And whereas Jose Luis may be able to give full on business presentations in nearly fluent English, he just can’t manage to get “bird” right.

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