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Three Bowls of Porridge

A few years ago, I was persuaded to join the local nursery school as a teacher.  I was not qualified to teach, but to  the school principal Ms. Agarwal  my proficiency in the English language was the greatest asset.  She was very particular that I should teach the students to speak correct English.  She also wanted that I should point out any English mistakes going on and correct them.

There were three other teachers.  Two stick thin twin sisters called Usha and Uma, and a rotund, bubbly woman called Veena, who had taught my daughters in pre-nursery.  I'd always found them friendly, but then I was a school parent.  The moment I joined as a teacher, I could feel a chill emanating from them.  The reason was, I later found out, they resented Mrs. Agarwal telling them that a teacher with a better standard of English was required in the school.  The other reason was that I was earning about two hundred rupees more than they were.  I'd told Ms. Agarwal that my husband would not allow me to work for less than a certain amount and she had agreed.  I had thought the amount was small enough, but everyone's salary had to be signed for on the same page.  I couldn't believe that qualified and experienced teachers could work for so little.

I tried my best to teach the children to pronounce English properly.  They were all from Hindi-speaking homes.  I had trouble making them pronounce 'W' properly.  They all said "V'.  They pronounced 'van' as 'wan'.  But they were good children and co-operated with me.

One day I overheard  Usha Ma'am in the next room reading "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" to her class.  My children were doing some colouring and the ayah (maid) was looking after them.  Imagine my horror when I heard Usha reading "Goldilocks saw three bowels (sic) of porridge on the table."  I shuddered with horror.  After classes, when the children were gone home, I approached her and mentioned that Ms. Agarwal had asked me to straighten out any English errors.  I explained the correct pronunciation of 'bowl', making the round 'o'.   I also told her that 'bowel' referred to an organ in the human body.   Usha Ma'am smiled and said nothing.

Sure enough, the next day, I heard Usha Ma'am reading the story aloud again.  Telling my children to colour a picture for a minute, I listened carefully at the open door of my room, hearing Usha's voice through the open door of her room.  I couldn't help smiling.

Goldilocks, poor thing,  was still  struggling with three 'bowels' of porridge.


  1. Oh dear! Funny though!
    The Turks can't pronounce 'v' either...or 'th' which comes out as 't'.

  2. Hahahaha! My colleague and I both made the same mistake when sneding around an email to staff - we asked our staff to put their bowels in the dishwasher when they had finished with them. How embarrassing!!

  3. Funny story - 'bowels' not the best word really. I work with a russian girl who sometimes struggles with words which people laugh at but I have so much respect for anyone who has learnt a second language. It's something I have never managed to do.

  4. Eheheheh Germans seem to have the same problem... but I should shut up as I'm not English! ;-)

  5. English is not an easy language to learn, just look at the many people for whom English is a native tongue, yet they still say 'turty' for thirty.

  6. I had an English teacher who taught me how to pronounce v and w by asking me to stick a finger in my mouth, pursing my lips around it, taking the finger out and pronounce properly. He finally gave up all attempts at correcting my Indianness!


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