Working with English Language Learners guarantees that there will be hilarious daily language bloopers. The secret to dealing with anyone’s mistakes (my students or my own) is to just keep on laughing… and being sure to teach students what they should say instead.
Sometimes a student mistake is simply a mispronunciation. We as teachers must be careful to not automatically assume where a student is coming from, like in this situation:
We are rearranging the room for our Power Point presentations, and Marcelo ends up trapped between three desks and the projector cart (the laptop cart complete with projector to be used for the presentations). Josúe moves one of the desks so that Marcelo is no longer trapped, but Marcelo reaches over and moves the desk back to trap himself in again. Marcelo says, ”It´s okay, I like being in here.” Josúe asks, ”What? You like being in hell?” Students laugh nervously, waiting for my response. Josúe seems very genuine in his question, so I ask, ”What do you mean, Josúe?” He explains that he wouldn’t want to be in prison like Marcelo wants to be. I ask what he means when he said the word hell. Josúe’s eyes get really big and his hand clamps over his mouth and he turns beat red. I ask again what he meant to say. He finally answers me, ”I wanted to say jail.” That’s when it clicked in my mind: the j sound in Spanish is like the h sound in English, making Josúe think he was saying jail and making everyone else hear hell. The whole class was laughing about that one for a while.