I really cant remember the last time that I was seriously embarrassed. Its not that I don’t get embarrassed ever or anything like that, but I’m just so laid-back that most things don’t really bother me and if they are embarrassing, I just shrug it off and move on.
But this past week in my class, I felt totally embarrassed, like we are talking I blushed and everything. But, don’t worry folks, it was a good kind of embarrassing and I laughed heartily through the entire thing.
So, heres what happened…
In my adult class, the theme of the lesson was Aches and Pains. So, I decided as a class to brainstorm various kinds of illnesses to help build vocabulary. All was going well. Then one of my students said diarrhea, which, in and of itself, is not embarrassing to me at all. Just after I had written diarrhea on the board, another student says What is diarrhea? And that is where the embarrassment comes in.
I started to explain in and got about five seconds into my explanation before I started seriously laughing! I couldnt believe that I actually had to talk about this in my class. Well, given my class dynamics and teaching style, I actually can fully believe that I would have to explain it. And let me tell you, it was just one of those moments where I wished that I could speak Japanese in class and just give the explanation. But I was just laughing too hard to manage any kind of a reasonable explanation. And by this point, thirty seconds to a minute into my laughing explanation, all the other students who know exactly what diarrhea is, are laughing along with me.
Finally, one of my students just takes pity on me and translates the word for the befuddled student, at which point he starts laughing too and apologizes for not knowing the word and making me explain it. And I admit, I did a poor job explaining it. I just, for the life of me, could not figure out an easy way to explain diarrhea.
Once I returned home, I related this whole story to Jen and asked her how she would have explained diarrhea. Without missing a beat, she utters two perfectly magical words that I doubt I will ever forget: water poop.
If only I had that weapon in my arsenal! I could have avoided the whole situation and blushing altogether! But, fear not future students, I know have that handy explanation tucked up my sleeve. That is one less thing to get embarrassed about. I have officially erased it from my ever-shortening list of embarrassing topics.
My challenge to all of you is to think of embarrassing vocabulary or ideas and try to think of a very simple way to explain them to non-native speakers. Its not as simple as you might think. Feel free to share some of your better ideas with me. Good luck!