Sunday, March 16, 2008

Has Anyone Ever Eaten ...These?

Teaching English Abroad: Has Anyone Ever Eaten ...These?

Has Anyone Ever Tried ...

When I asked, “Has anyone ever tried Saino?”; having tasted this species of wild pig called Peccary in English and native to many of the jungles of South America, I did regain a little respect for my “adventuresome” eating. But what brought the house down was my tale of breakfasts in America’s rural south with fried pork brains scrambled with eggs along with fried slices of pig testicles, known as “mountain oysters” in states like South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. Mouths dropped open and glazed-over eyes seemed to double in size. Then they started talking.

Conversation Practice
One of the language aspects of most interest to your students will be conversation practice. As a native speaker, you represent the best that English has to offer in pronunciation, grammar usage, idioms and expressions, vocabulary, fluency and communicative ability. You are the ultimate example of English in use. But how can you regularly stimulate your students to speak spontaneously without timidity or fear of making mistakes?

The Use of Controversial Questions and Topics
The use of controversial questions and topics can help. In class ask something like: “What’s the most unusual or strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?”

You can then give the answer for yourself first as an example. When I said the strangest thing I’d ever eaten was toasted or fried ants (called “Hormigas Culonas” here in Colombia) the students weren’t impressed. In areas of Mexico, insects like Agave worms (used in tequila), shiny, blue and green iridescent Humiles beetles, and leaf cutter ants and their eggs, are eaten as a matter of course. “I ate flowers once”, I piped up trying to regain some ground. Still no good. Flor de Calabaza, the bright orange flowers of a pumpkin plant, is passé in the areas around Tepoztlan, south of Mexico City. As a matter of fact, they’re delicious sautéed and wrapped in a hot, blue corn tortilla. Did I mention that I frequently dine on the deadly, fear-inspiring, razor-toothed Piranha? But that’s no big deal here.

The Students' Turn
It was the students’ turn and each had stories to tell. And tell them they did. “My aunt likes iguana”, one student blurted out. “Have you tried iguana eggs?, another asked. “Yes, I have”, I smirked. Stories began to flow. Slowly at first, then faster as memories and emotions mounted. Tales of iguana, turtles, caimans (a species of alligator), donkey meat, reptile eggs, armadillo, a Guinea Pig relative called “Cuy” and Dagger fish emerged enthusiastically - bursting with anecdotes, humor and sometimes a bit of disgust. It not only got them speaking fluently, but was quite informative too.

“You can always tell a dagger fisherman”, one Mexican student explained, “because of the strange scars they get from the fish.” “Oh, so how do they get the scars? I meekly asked. The answer made me gasp. Trust me, you don’t want to know. Shark is popular in many Latin and Caribbean countries too.

I wanted to know more and they obliged. They spoke not only of things they’d tried, but of meats and meals they’d heard of others eating. Opinions of what, where and why added richness, depth and flow to the conversation. In the end I had to halt the session which ran well overtime with no indication of ending anytime soon.

They're Cute, Cuddly and Delicious
Oh yeah, I still haven’t tried the “Cow’s Eye soup” in Colombia or the steamy, animal-blood-sprinkled “Yaguarlocro” of Ecuador. But the chicken feet often found in “Sancocho”, Colombia’s national dish, don’t get even the smaller rise out of me anymore. And early last year, I sampled a hearty stew of Three-toed Sloth. They’re cute. They’re cuddly. They’re delicious.

By the way, what’s the strangest, most unique food that YOU have ever eaten?

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 80 countries. Get your FREE E-books, “If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" or "7 Techniques to Motivate Your English Language Learners and Make Your Classes More Dynamic" by requesting the title you want at:

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