Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Have you ever....?

My intensive class is going reasonably well. On the up side, it turned out I only need to teach the first three units... not five. That makes a big difference. And three hours with adults just flies by. I swear with the kids, I'm checking my watch and digging deep for activities, but with these adults I can barely get through the material I usually do in a 2 hour class. It's not that they're slow per se, but they ask a LOT of questions. I've noticed the same thing in my new Intermediate level class. In the lower levels that I usually teach, I guess they don't have the language confidence to ask me why we say this or that.

One error I've been noticing more and more is "I ever go to Bangkok." "I ever go to the movies." Weird. The first couple times I heard it I thought the students were trying to say "I never go..." which is something we teach in the starter class. But no... I've been hearing the misuse of the word 'ever' in more and more contexts and finally called a student on it. We were going through adverbs of frequency -never, occasionally, sometimes, usually, always- and had the students give me sentences. When "I ever go to Bangkok" came up I corrected him and told him he could say "I went to Bangkok. I've been to Bangkok. I occasionally go to Bangkok." etc. But not "I ever go to Bangkok."

Then I went to the board and illustrated that we use the word "ever" in questions only (I'm sure there's an exception) and most often with present perfect: "Have you ever been to Bangkok?" but never in the short answers "Yes, I have." / "No, I haven't." or in the positive form of the sentence "I have been to Bangkok." or in the negative forms of the sentence "I haven't been to Bangkok." / "I've never been to Bangkok." Most of the students were diligently copying down notes, like this was actually helpful information for them. But one student kept throwing examples at me.

Student: "Can I say 'I ever been to Bangkok'?"
Me: "No."
Student: "Can I say 'I ever had...'?"
Me: "No." pointing up at the board where I've clearly shown that we only use 'ever' in the question form.
Student: "Can I say 'I ever do...'?"
Me: "No!"
Student: "But, I hear people say it a lot."
Me: "Me too! And it's not correct!"

Ugh. I can appreciate that he's trying to work out the rule for himself. But this particular student seems far more interested in testing me, and showing off how much English he thinks he knows, than in actually learning. And it's tough because there are six other students in the class who are willing to trust that I speak English well enough to be an authority on the subject. I don't like leaving them to watch me go back and forth with the other student. I haven't yet figured out how to do it.

I feel like this tangent, although it took a fair amount of time, was worth it to the student's overall understanding of English. But I've got to be careful... they've only got two weeks of class... then they're going to Singapore. I want to focus as much on things that will actually help them. Not, like the other tangent where the student wanted to know if it was okay to say "10 grand" instead of "10 thousand" and "why? why? why?" Arg!!!! Just fucking say "ten thousand" because that's what the book says and you're not in a fucking gangster movie!!!!

I ever need a drink.

TAG: Code Sweet Chili Sauce

*In the middle of this post I started to write "It's like the first time they'd ever heard of it." FUCK. I never think of the exceptions until like a day later. =/ Now I'm debating whether or not I should teach them "The first time I ever..." or if that would just confuse them and get them back to saying "I ever go to the market." etc.

Curse you English Language and your endless exceptions!!!


Megan said...

What about "I haven't ever..."?
I'm curious now (don't kill me!).

There's a lot of really bad grammar up here. The most common phrases are "how you are?", "how old you are?" and "how you're doing?". A lot of people also say "ate" wrong... They say "et" instead...

d said...

i think it takes a certain amount of skills and patience to teach english. there are so many stupid unexplainable rules. and so much of common usage is incorrect. i'm sure it must be really hard to learn it.

IamSusie said...

I'm no linguist, but it almost sounds like they mean "whenever", but maybe not. Whatever... ;D

Rebel said...

megan - thanks for visiting my blog! "I haven't ever..." is correct because it's in the negative form, although it means the same as "I've never", the 'ever' there is more of an intensifier I think. Still not getting into it with my students.

d = add in the differences between British English and American English and it really starts getting fun. =)

susie - I don't think I've heard any of my students say 'whenever' yet... although that's a seriously misused word in the states!

Megan said...

Ahhh! Thanks for clarifying! Thinking too much about word usage makes me second guess myself.

I just remembered another one said up here (and it uses "ever"!).... "ever cold" - as in "boy it's cold outside!" you could also put ever in front of other words like "ever mean" or "ever good"...

Michael5000 said...

This post was ever so amusing!