Modern Languages - Go easy on the errors

7th December 2012 at 00:00

What it's all about

"Could I have a large slice of cat, please?"

Mistakes are comedy gold. Take time over them and you can have a laugh while learning a lot about languages, writes Catherine Paver.

Tell pupils about the howlers you made when you were learning a language. In the above example, I did not know the Italian for "cake", so said the French word "gateau" with an Italian accent. But "gatto" means "cat". The waiter kept a straight face until I asked if the "chocolate cat had nuts in it". This taught me to look things up.

Let pupils keep a page in their books where they note down their favourite mistakes: the funny ones that taught them the most.

Perhaps you misheard a word and did not check its spelling. One teacher told his class about a big hose used to extinguish large borrega fires instead of bodega. The children wondered why he had to extinguish sheep.

Beware of nouns related to each other: caballero and caballo are similar, so be sure which one means "gentleman". Don't do what one pupil did and say, "You're a real horse!"

Tell pupils about words in different languages that look or sound similar but have very different meanings. "Preservative" in English comes from the Latin praeservativus, which developed rather a different meaning in 18 other languages. In French, German and Spanish, you might ask: "Does this jam contain condoms?"

What else?

Jen Turner's French reading and listening vocabulary list helps pupils to tackle "false friends", bit.lyFrenchFalseFriends. Stop meaning from being lost in translation with anyholland 's list of French-English faux amis, bit.lyFauxAmis.

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