Sunday, August 26, 2007

Learning Vocabulary from Television

I often encourage my ESL students to watch television. Although watching TV is usually a mind-numbing process, for English language learners, it's another way to practice English listening skills. It also (for better or worse) teaches about American culture. Sitcoms are particularly useful for learning new vocabulary and idioms. TV news can also be useful, although most of my ESL students tell me that they have trouble understanding TV news. The stories are often out of context so the English learner cannot use the context to understand what's going on.

I was just watching a Sunday national news program. One of the stories was about adults who take care of their aging parents. One of the lines in the story was, "She took care of her aging parents until they both passed." Although an English language learner could probably figure out what this sentence means, it was interesting to me that the reporter said "passed" instead of "passed away." "To pass away" is the more common euphemism to talk about death; yet, any native English speaker would have no trouble understanding this sentence. I wondered if a non-native speaker would completely understand.

Incidentally, I looked up "pass" on dictionary.com. Without using "pass" as part of a phrasal verb, there were 75 definitions! Seventy-five definitions for the word "pass!" How's a person supposed to learn English?!

1 comment:

Anderson Fleming said...

I think TV is useful, but should always be used together with a full vocabulary strategy, and in my opinion always by using mnemonics.