Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Expressions for Physical Descriptions

As I was walking to meet a new ESL student today, I was wondering what she would look like. The majority of my students are and have been Asian. After I write a description of myself to them, sometimes they write back with a description of themselves. It's usually something like, "I'm Asian and have black hair." As you can imagine, this description isn't the most useful, but I usually can tell who a new student is when they walk through the coffee shop door.

Today's new student was from France. She didn't provide me with a physical description, but I wasn't too worried. Just curious. Like I said, I can usually tell a new student the moment they walk through the door because they look like they are looking for someone.

I mentioned yesterday that I used to write that I have "olive skin." I also (a long time ago) used to write that I had "salt and pepper" hair. While this is also an expression, it's easier to figure out than "olive." So I was thinking about the whole description, "salt and pepper hair with olive skin." I amused myself by thinking about what this would look like in a literal sense.

--end--

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is utterly flabberghasting to me that you are actually an english language tutor! YOU are the one who needs more training.

For example:
"Like I said..." should read "As I said..."; "a new student" is singluar so the rest of the sentence should have reflected this, as in "...the moment they walk through the door because they look like they are looking for someone" should have read "..the moment (s)he walks through the door because (s)he looks as if (s)he is looking for someone.

Please, please, please do some more studying of the English language before you further contaminate its new users.

Judy Nadon

Name: Debra Garcia, M.A. said...

Hi Judy,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write! I really appreciate it.

As I have mentioned in other posts, ESL students often study grammar in their home countries and they know grammar very well. Unfortunately, they aren't taught how English is really used by native speakers. Nor are they taught about how English is a constantly evolving language. Please take a look at this page http://www.esl-tutor.com/2007/05/his-her-or-their.html. It will explain to you and others how the use of prepositions is changing, even according to Longman.

When one is writing a formal paper, such common and informal usages should be avoided and "s/he" or "he or she," for example, would be used. However, a blog is hardly formal. At least mine isn't.

Take care,
Debra

Name: Debra Garcia, M.A. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Name: Debra Garcia, M.A. said...

Oops. Sorry. I made a real human mistake in the above post. I wrote the word "prepositions" when I meant "pronouns." (The blogging program I use won't allow me to make a correction to a comment.)

The use of pronouns in informal English is changing. See "His," "Her" or "Their".

Anonymous said...

Nice handling of that one! I'm in college for TESL, and I was actually looking for materials for a lesson plan on physical descriptions, and Google hit your site by chance. Anyway, interesting post! What do you do to get your (Asian) students to talk or write more? That's a unique situation to have to deal with, haha.

I heard a saying once, you might like it- "I eat prescriptivists for breakfast!"

Anyway, take it easy :)

Mariana said...

I´ve been looking at your blog, and you have interesting materials and comments.

About the comment above, that person should read a bit more about grammatically correct and prescriptive grammar (hope my parallellism and zpelin are not criticized). That will bring some relief to his or her life :)

RKB said...

I was just reading through this blog and came across this post.

Judy Nadon wrote:
"Like I said..." should read "As I said..."; "a new student" is singluar so the rest of the sentence should have reflected this, as in ".

"Singluar" is spelled "singular."

Maybe you should be a little ashamed of your misspelling ;)


P.S.
Debra, you've put together a great resource. Thank you for sharing.