I have a married couple who are Green level students that often come on Saturdays for a joint lesson. He is a cardiologist and she is a housewife. They are both very good speakers of English but I guess that he is a little better given his wide English medical vocabulary.
We covered one made-up situation by assuming that they were living in the US (which they plan to do in the future) and she was at home when here husband was away at a medical conference. I started with “I pulled my toenail back when I opened the front door in barefeet” scenario. That always elicits a little scream of imagined pain from all in the room. I got a kick out of her answer when her husband, who she had called to ask for advice, asked her if she could drive to the hospital. She said “Yes, I injured my left foot.” You see you only need your right foot to drive an automatic transmission car. I thought that this was quite creative of her to come up with that answer.
Next, I pulled out a three-page listing of medical questions and vocabulary that I had made 24 years ago when I was teaching English to Mitsubishi Electric employees who were being sent to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Indonesia etc. It had the usual questions about fever, previous operations, allergies etc. that are often asked when you visit the doctor or clinic. Even though I listed a lot of difficult disease names, I was hard pressed to find one that the husband did not know.
Actually, we ended up discussing the upcoming Michael Moore movie, “Sicko“, that will come out later this month (8/25/2007). We had a good laugh about that as we all expect it to be more of an entertainment experience than a documentary on the US health care system. In the meantime I will prepare a scenario for the next lesson to challenge the husband’s use of English as it relates to medical treatment in the US or europe. This is quite a challenge for me too but it is one of the things that makes this job of teaching English in Japan so much fun. You gotta love those higher level students!
Al Bartle (Smith’s School of English – Okamoto)