Thursday, May 12, 2011

Howdy! हाउडे!

I started class the other day by introducing my students to the Texan version of Namaste.

Their textbooks had already taught them that the Australians say 'G'day!' An Australian educator had a hand in designing the textbooks, so a lot of the passages are suspiciously australiocentric ("Okay kids, in Chapter 10 Prabhu and Shyam are going to start talking about Ayer's Rock again for some reason!"). So I presented this as a simple example of World Englishes: the Australians say 'G'day,' the British say 'Hello' (or, as I intoned in my best imitation of Queen Elizabeth, 'Hellooooooo'; like all Americans I possess a flawless British accent) and my fellow Texans say 'Howdy.' I thought I was being quite instructive, but all the students burst out laughing.

My counterpart told me that the Nepali word 'haude' means 'a person who speaks nonsense.' Well, I guess that fits me. The students certainly thought so.

Anyway, it wasn't the first lesson in which I mentioned the unique English dialect of my homeland. During the pen pal project I helped my students read the letters sent from Austin, Texas. Most of the difficult vocabulary were words like 'transition,' 'obsess,' and 'communicate.' But I had to explain several simple words that they had never encountered before, and several unfamiliar objects and names. For example:

y'all

enchiladas

pie

saxophone

native ancestry

kinda

sorta

I just thought that was sort of interesting. Imagine how you would explain each of these words to a seventh grader. My style of teaching usually involves drawing cartoons on the board and elaborate pantomime that sort of degenerates into me flailing my arms until I fall off the wooden platform. Hence, haude. 

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