A game to help adults learn English. Or not

Today we held Talk Time, a once-a-month group for adults from other countries who want to practice their English, which three of us lead at a local elementary school.  Apropos of the launching of the winter eating season, we opened with a game related to foods.  Everyone had a card taped on their back with a food name on it — pancakes, pizza, spaghetti, soup, salad and a few fruits, vegetables and beverages.  The object was for participants to get to know each other and ask questions that would help them identify their food. I wrote a list of possible questions to get them started.  Confusion reigned as soon as I let them loose with my list.

Imagine the people trying to answer questions of a Japanese woman who had “rice” on her back.  “Do you eat this for breakfast?” she asks an unsuspecting classmate from Vietnam.  “Uh…uh…yes,” the classmate says and then looks to me for guidance.  Oops, I think.  This is tricky one.  They both probably eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Let’s go on to the next question.  “Do I eat my food with a spoon? No? Do I eat it with a fork? No?” Who would have thought to put chopsticks on the list of questions? But chopsticks are probably the tool of choice for most meals they eat at home, so chopsticks isn’t an answer that will help distinguish among foods. This game was getting more complicated.

I moved on to the Chinese man who had only a simple vegetable name on his back:  eggplant.  By the time he and I spoke he knew he was a vegetable and he was not black, red, or green.  “Am I purple?” he asked.

“Yes.  You are.  Great job.  All you have to do now is think of an obvious purple vegetable.”

“I don’t know any purple vegetables in English. In Taiwan we eat a purple vegetable cooked in a black oil.”

“Sesame oil?” I asked.

“No.” Time to loosen the rules.

“You can give more than yes or no answers. And you can try to help your classmates.  Feel free to give them hints.”

One of the other facilitators, specifically the one who made up the cards with the food titles on them, guessed her food last:  popcorn.  Next time she can make up the questions.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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