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Saturday
Jan282012

The "If...., then...." factor

Last week I had to teach my Czech students the 1st Conditional (not to be confused with the Zero, 2nd or 3rd Conditionals). If you know what that is, then good for you smarty-pants. Personally, I had no idea what it was, and I have spent the last two weeks teaching English grammar points that I had only just learned the day before. Being a native speaker is an odd mix of expertise and ignorance: you don't know WHY we say something the way we say it, but you know it sounds off when you hear it spoken incorrectly. 

The 1st Conditional says that If something is true (present tense) then something will happen (in the future). It is used to express things that are future possibilities or predictions. Obvious?--yes. Now try teaching this to a room full of Beginner Czech students while using only words they've heard before.

I am reminded of the uncertain nature of the word "possibilities" as I try to make this Prague thing happen.  "But you're already there!" you think. "Why would you come home so quickly??"  The truth is, I have moved here on a wish and a prayer, and on the "prediction" that certain "possibilities" will open themselves up to me. Up to us. But nothing is certain. The various possibilities that must come true are wrapped around my situation in a never ending chain of "if..., then..." statments. For example:

If I pass my grammar exam, then I will pass the course.

If I pass the course, and if I get good recommendations from my instructors, then I will get a job.

If I get a job, then I will need a Visa.

If my visa gets approved, then I will be able to keep said job.

If I get an apartment, I will most likely qualify for a visa. 

If I get a job, I will be able to afford to pay for said apartment.

If I can get a single Czech realtor to keep a weekend appointment with me, I will be able to get an apartment.

If all these things happen in the next month, I will give the green light to John to drag Gunner's furry behind on a plane and come on out.

If all these things do not happen, I will have to call this a vacation, and go home....wherever that is.

I'm off to spend my Saturday afternoon at my instructor's office hours in the local Tea Shop. Flavored hooka, Chai and English grammar in the middle of Eastern Europe. What a strange new world.

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Reader Comments (1)

Ha ha I can relate to the native speaker dilemma teaching out here in Asia. I can't tell you how many times I explained something to my students and prayed they didn't ask any further questions about how or why we do it one way or another. I still remember one of my classes full of 13 year olds. I showed them three sentences and asked what the difference was between them. One girl explained in detail how one was past progressive, another was past perfect and the final was simple past - something that when I stared at the book again was true but I think I just looking for something more like, "this was uses 'ing'" ha ha!! How old are your students? What sort of tools do you have in the classroom? I'd be happy to email you some games, PPTs and handouts I've created for various ages, grammar points and vocabulary themes. Good luck and hang in there!

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

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