Viper Dip

Back in the day when I was teaching English as a Second Language at an international school in San Diego, there were many Arab students in my classes. I enjoyed teaching them because they were open, very friendly, willing to try to speak in the new language and undaunted about making mistakes. I taught writing at the intermediate level, so I got to enjoy many of these.

Because English is written in the opposite direction of Arabic, there is a particular kind of Arab dyslexia that led to some funny mistakes, usually confusing words — kitchen and chicken for example, Spinach and Spanish. Some letters — particularly the silent ones — look the same to Arab students. E and C are commonly confused. Because S can sound like C they are also confused.

My favorite one was confusing snake for snack. For example (this is a real example), “We were angry (hungry) after the movie so we went to store for snakes.”

All I had to do to help the student with this one was draw a cartoon on the back of the paper of the student buying snakes at Vons (the local supermarket). What would make a Korean girl blush in shame and anger — and never return to class — only made the Arabs laugh — and proofread.

And that, Mr. Trump, is your lesson in international relations for this Friday.

8 thoughts on “Viper Dip

  1. I learned Arabic for a year and could even write it, today no longer. I would have been glad to make mistakes like that to show that I actually was doing the right thing, if in the wrong way. I was just doing everything in the wrong way, very difficult language.

    • 🙂 I used to be able to write my name, but it seemed very random because I hadn’t studied the language. I learned a lot of words for speaking, though. I enjoyed those students very much.

  2. I find it fascinating how we r undaunted like a child when it’s about learning any ‘language’! 🙂 btw I appreciate ur lesson on international relations.

  3. I loved learning about “both lessons” the difference in languages and their response to it. Dedicated students! How brilliant is that?

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