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Eric18 Mar 29th, 2008 09:57 am

Proverbs Provide Perspective
Proverbs provide perspective.
“Well begun is half done,” goes the Greek proverb.
Short and memorable, proverbs often capture a point of view in vivid words. We learn proverbs our entire lives - from our relatives, our teachers, our friends, the media, and our literature. They contain folk wisdom gathered through time and experience. They often capture a common human experience.
Yet I like to use proverbs in ESL classes for three other distinct reasons.
1. Students can share proverbs from their own countries. In ESL classes where you have students from many different countries and numerous first languages, proverbs allow students to affirm the insights and experiences of their native culture. “Home is where the heart is.”
2. Students can easily memorize proverbs. Using the right proverb at the right moment gives students a tremendous sense of competency and fluency in English – something that immigrants often struggle to achieve. “No pain, no gain.”
3. Studying proverbs from around the world helps create a more global education, and counters the fears of English displacing the insights and words of other tongues and times. “The sky is blue everywhere” and “birds return to old nests.”
4. Sharing proverbs shows a respect for tradition and the past while students expand their vocabulary in a new, modern language. Many immigrants, particularly older ones, have very mixed feelings about their new lives in an English speaking nation. “Old habits die hard.” et “you’re never too old to learn” gives hope.

For instance, an older immigrant from rural Korea learning English in Los Angeles might find themselves also learning to live in modern, culturally diverse city for the first time. While the formal subject may be English, immigrants are also discovering new ways of living and thinking in the school. Proverbs seem to affirm the concept that “the more things change, the more they remain the same” and “the unexpected always happens.”

When I taught an advanced ESL conversation class to immigrants and international students from many different countries at Santa Monica Community College, I usually introduced conversation topics with a classic American or English proverb. Students would soon be paired up to interview each other and share experiences. When we returned together for a group discussion, I noticed that students often explained their answers using proverbs. I decided to “go with the flow” and build proverbs into course materials.

After all, “The lotus springs from the mud.”

Ask more. Know more. Share more.
Create Compelling Conversations.
Visit www.compellingconversations.

English-coach Mar 16th, 2009 05:04 am

Re: Proverbs Provide Perspective
I picked "somtimes" but I don't think they sound too traditional. I think that they really do capture moments very clearly. I've just never really thought about incorporating them into class...until now. Actually I was reviewing the free sample of your book and it must say it looks like a very useful teaching guide AND learning guide for students. Congrats on creating and providing such a wonderful resource for English learners.

Eric18 Mar 28th, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Proverbs Provide Perspective
Thank you for your kind words.

The proverbs feature seems quite popular. In fact, I'm adding over 75 Vietnamese proverbs for a tailored edition of Compelling Conversations for Vietnamese English language learners - and two chapters on Vietnam right now. This version will also be culturally sensitive (i.e., censored) to accommodate local authorities. Proverbs can seem multiple purposes - with just a few words. Sweet.

English-coach Apr 3rd, 2009 04:17 am

Re: Proverbs Provide Perspective
You are welcome Eric. :) I hope to add a proverb section to my website in the near future...but there is SO much that I need to add that I don't know when it will happen. :)

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