Friday, June 24, 2011

Intonation and vocab work with a nurse lecturer at Sydney University

Every so often you get a client who you really get on well with. This has happened with Tebbin and me. She is a lecturer in the School of Nursing at Sydney University so her English is very good. However, she felt that the students were having a bit of trouble with a bit of left over interference from her first language, Cantonese and especially her lack of appropriate grammar at times and of course vocab.

We have worked on the usual vowels, softening language, assertive language and recently chunking of her lectures to introduce more pausing and stressing of key words. It has had a dramatic effect and the students are much happier.

Today , however we had a great laugh. She ws talking to one of the other academic staff and they were discussing the students. Tebbin said "I really like that student.". The other lecturer raised her eyebrow sand said "What?" Tebbin said that no she didn't mean it THAT way as he was married with children etc.

We discussed today whether the other lecturer interpreted her sentence the wrong way because she only meant that she thought he was a nice person.

We decided that the usual stressing of the  last word in a chunk, that is the tonic stress, was as in example 1, the best way to sound unambiguous. However as in examples 2 and 3 stressing really or like can make the statement ambiguous.
  1. I really like that student.
  2. I really like that student.         
  3. I really like that student.

The main reason we had laugh was over he mis understanding and misuse of a word for many years. In her lecture she was talking about a certain type of care that "Can sometimes be timely."  I said that something either is or isn't timely .It couldn't sometimes be timely. She thought that timely meant for a long time. Then she said "Now I know why this sentence never made any sense to me."

"Nurses must perform their duties in a safe and timely manner."

Fung Koo    Lecturer in Nursing at Sydney University