Saturday, October 18, 2008


Today I did some dictation in all of my classes. I have been doing that a lot recently, because my students are so very, very bad at understanding even the simplest English they hear if it is spoken at anything approaching normal speed. I do not dictate word at a time. I dictate sentence at a time, and read each sentence twice. At the end, I read it all again so they can check once more, and then I tell them to go through and make notes where they think they must have misheard something because it does not make sense. I ask them to guess what they think I might have said, judging this time by the meaning rather than what they heard. I am trying to get them to make intelligent guesses.

They are not very good at it, but some of them are getting better.

Today one of the dictations I did was of a conversation. In it, a man is booking a hotel room. He says:

"I'd like to book a room for tonight."

Most of the students missed the for, which was not such a big problem. But I was surprised at how many of them missed book a room, and how bad they were at guessing what it could be, considering that we have just finished an entire chapter in the text about hotels and holidays.

One student had written,

"I'd like a blue moon tonight."

He didn't seem to think there was anything particularly odd about that, even though the man was then asked whether he'd prefer a single or a double. Perhaps he thought I was dictating some sort of weirdly romantic science fiction thing at them.

Another student, as I wandered past and looked over his shoulder, was staring at his paper, pencil hovering, and frowning. He had written,

"I'd like to boom tonight."

I snorted.

"What do you think that means?" I asked.

He looked at me, puzzled.

"I don't know," he confessed.

"Maybe he's a terrorist," I said. "A suicide bomber. You know, he wants to BOOM!"

He looked doubtful.

"No, probably not," I said. "But what do people USUALLY want when they go into a hotel?"

He stared at his paper again, then his face cleared.

"Oh!" he said. He crossed out boom, and wrote, room.

But actually, I think his version was more interesting.


Curley said...

"But what do people USUALLY want when they go into a hotel?"

In the land of the Love Hotel, there're more than one answers to this question! :-)

Dutchie said...

My (cheeky)thoughts exactly, I thought he would hv written "a quickee" - haha !

I'm amazed at the standard in which Uni students r grappling with the English language. Makes me wonder what they hv been learning in schools prior to this ?