Holiday Terms, ESL Style
As homeschoolers, we can have fun with spelling vocabulary around this time of year.Â Christmas and Hanukkah bring up terms and ideas with which many new English speakers may struggle, not the least of whom are our Russian children.
We practice three ways to spell Hanukkah, with two kâ€™s, or two nâ€™s, or with Ch instead of H.
â€œBut which is the real way?â€ they ask me, and I share with them that some say there are 16 different forms.Â The fact that the word is spelled in Hebrew doesnâ€™t change their desire to know the â€œrealâ€ spelling.
â€œAnd what is the holiday of Hanukkah about?â€
â€œEight days of presents!â€
â€œThe festival of oil!â€
â€œThe festival of dedication.â€
â€œAll decked out,â€ I tossed their way, â€œwhat does this mean?â€
â€œPassed out,â€ one said, obviously referring to inebriation.
â€œTired,â€ another replied.Â Apparently, too much shopping and eggnog.
â€œDecked means decorated.Â You might get â€˜all decked outâ€™ for a party, as well,â€ I explain.
â€œWhat is a tree topper?â€ I asked.
â€œSomeone who works on top of a tree,â€ one daughter shrugged.
â€œI donâ€™t knowâ€¦.â€
â€œItâ€™s whatever people choose to put on top of their treeâ€”the star of Bethlehem, an angel, a big cone with a tassel,â€ I revealed to their oohs and aahs.
â€œA personalized gift?â€ I wondered.
â€œUnderwear, you know, personal stuff.â€
Which leads one to consider what might happen if they were chosen as an office spokesperson to buy the boss a personalized giftâ€¦ and ended up withâ€¦ underwear in a box!Â Not knowing English could be dangerous, cute accent notwithstanding.
â€œItâ€™s put under a door,â€ our younger son ventured.
â€œUnder a door, or under a doorframe?Â It could be hanging from a chandelier, also.Â What does it mean?â€
â€œTwo couples must kiss!â€ our older daughter exclaimed.
â€œFour people?Â How many people are in a couple?â€ I probed.
â€œOhâ€¦.Â Thatâ€™s rightâ€¦â€ she paused, while the younger piped up.
â€œMama, do you have to be married to kiss under the mistletoe?â€
â€œWell, itâ€™s a good idea,â€ I agree.Â â€œI mean, technically, you might want to trick somebody into standing under the mistletoe, but really, very few strangers would kissâ€¦.Â Did you have someone special in mind?â€ I ask the 12 year old.
â€œJust checking.Â Okay, how about â€˜the more, the merrierâ€™?â€
â€œThe more gifts, the better!â€
â€œUm, that would be noâ€¦.â€
Inebriation.Â Old images from Mother Russia die hard.
â€œNo, it means that the more people who come to an event or gathering, the more fun it will be.â€
And with that, we concluded our holiday discussion, enlightened, sober, and full of anticipation.Â As we heard news of a blizzard passing through the Midwest, the children spoke of a â€œWinter Wonderlandâ€, yet another term, as they pondered their â€œNew Yearâ€™s resolutionsâ€.
It was a lot to digest, helped along by Christmas cookies and carols.
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