Teaching foreign students has been one of the highlights of my life, for many reasons. Sometimes I hear things I don't understand at all, other times I hear everyday things put into a different perspective, and occasionally I am treated to some delightful insight about another culture. For example, last week my students were given an assignment to go out and find someone who looked like a native English speaker and ask him or her a few questions.
Now, beyond the normal difficulties of being shy or self-conscious about their speaking abilities, most students also have to overcome the major hurdles of communicating with people who speak very fast English and who don't understand foreign accents.
One tall and handsome Asian student came back to tell about his attempt to make a conversation in a Las Vegas jazz club with what he described as "one of the most beautiful women" he had even seen. He said the beautiful woman was sitting with a "not-so-beautiful" woman and he had to make a decision about his chances for starting a conversation with either one of them. After some careful thought, he decided to try to speak with the "not-so-beautiful" woman. Here was his reason:
"The beautiful woman was a mountain I couldn't climb."
I, along with the entire class, burst out laughing because we all understood exactly what he meant.