This is Pony and I want to take a minute to address some things people have said about our blog. Since we were first posted on Reddit, some people have had objections to our format, and since then I’ve seen other things people have said through reblogs.
It’s dehumanizing or “othering” to non-native English speakers. Yeah, let’s make fun of people who can’t talk English good.
First of all, I am a language learner. I think of “A” as I would any other person who’s trying to learn a language. I’m a native English speaker, but I’m trying to become proficient at both Swedish and Esperanto. My teachers and I have definitely laughed our butts off at my weird mistakes. I’ll readily admit that these things don’t come easily to me, and sometimes saying “för” instead of “på” renders a sentence nonsensical. That’s okay. Learning requires humility.
Secondly, she does things with language I would never think to do. When “A” referred to something that was like a hot dog as a “tepid dog,” I lost my shit laughing. Not because it was wrong, but because it was innovative. Learning a new language exposes you to a bunch of new semantic meanings and colloquialisms and ways to express yourself. “A” revels in the chance to write weird sentences and I love the things she writes.
That’s a shitty way to teach someone. Is that all you teach her? What about sentence structure? Pronunciation?
We meet for about five hours per week. Our lessons are varied. Aside from the picture captions, we also do pronunciation drills, article readings, quizzes, story interpretations, and dictation. We also play games a lot. If you seriously think I’m milking some rube ESL learner for funny sentences and not teaching her anything, you are so, so misguided. Teaching is one of my passions and she’s one of my favorite people to teach.
In addition, I believe the photo caption exercise has unique merit. If I present “A” with a picture of an alien eating a dog or a giant cup of coffee, it stretches her vocabulary a lot more than if I showed her the kind of stuff you’d see on Livemocha (a train at a station; a clock). She has to come up with a unique comedic situation to explain the picture, then express those words as best she can. We have a lot of conversations about grammar (“that” versus “which,” for example) as a result of these exercises.
Engrish is a problematic concept.
Yup. First of all, the name is based on the trope that Asian people can’t distinguish L and R. It’s the same thing that makes dumb fuckos laugh at “I’m So Ronery” from Team America. I don’t particularly like it, but I also don’t think that what we’re doing is in that category. We’re not blindly using English to sell CDs or shirts or tattoos. I would also point out that what “A” writes is not a product of a country or company; it’s her individual expression. Whether or not you think it’s okay to make fun of that stuff, please don’t lump us into that category.
You treat “A” in a patronizing way.
The first time I read this type of comment, I got angry, then I was amused. What kind of presumptuous jerk thinks he knows how I treat my student? She’s my friend, first and foremost. We met through a site where we were both starting to learn other languages, so we’re on equal footing. We talk to each other about personal issues as well as language questions. If you think a relationship between an American and an ESL student is inherently unequal, please examine your ideas about those relationships and check your friggin’ privilege.
Sorry for the downer, folks! My computer’s coming around the 6th or 7th so we’ll be resuming our regular posting pretty soon.