A Taste of Teaching

Yesterday, at long last, I began what I’ve always wanted to do — arguably what I came to graduate school to do — to teach linguistics!

The night before, I had one of those wild harbinger dreams wherein that thing you’ve been anticipating shows up in either the best or the worst way possible. I dreamt that I was holding class, except sitting in the desks were all of my old high school students from Korea, and in the back of my room was my old co-teacher. It was as if I’d jumped two years back in time, except I was still meant to teach linguistics. I don’t remember anything else about the dream (at one point I had teamed up with Batman to fight bad guys, and everything was in slow motion), but it was exciting. I woke up grinning, ready to tackle the day.

This semester, I am leading three discussion sections for an introductory linguistics course. A professor gives lectures three times a week, and students also meet for a discussion section, led by a graduate student instructor, once a week. My sections are all crammed into Wednesday afternoon, so Wednesday is officially my teaching day. I warned my friends that if they saw me on Wednesday evenings I would probably be a tired mess after back to back to back classes. But as a matter of fact, yesterday I left my classroom elated and hit the gym smiling, just thinking about how cool the upcoming semester is going to be.

Maybe I just got lucky! I don’t know what kind of an impression I made on my students, but my lesson plan went smoothly, I didn’t make any huge gaffes, and I have already been able to identify some of the students whose interest in linguistics appears genuine. (Many of my students are taking the course as a requirement for a different major; well, I hope I can also get them hooked on linguistics eventually!)

It also helps that the first few weeks of the semester cover some of my specialties and favorite topics in linguistics, including phonetics and phonology. I write in IPA every so often in this blog, right? Well, I had a blast teaching various aspects of the IPA to my students. I also ended class with a little riddle: can you figure out what the following phrase says? [ɑlðəlɑŋlɑstaɹbʌkslʌvəɹz]

For people who are just learning how to read phonetic transcriptions, it’s not easy. But it piqued my students’ interest enough that many of them took photos of what I had written on the chalkboard to pore over later, and some stayed after class just to puzzle it out.

My plan is to give the answer next week, along with a little lesson on how close transcription and knowledge of speech production can help us understand mondegreens like those in certain popular Taylor Swift songs.



Word of the Day: antimeria (from Greek: ἀντί + μέρος, “opposite part”) is, in rhetoric, the act of using a word in a different word class than usual. For example, verbing nouns! (“Verb” is a noun that I used as a verb.) Or like asking someone to emcee an event. Or gossiping about a friend who has no chill. Or this gem I once read in a recap of an episode of “Glee” that has stuck with me for years: “Ryder told his jock friends to stop bullying Jake just because he’s a poor.” Young speakers of English are particularly adept at finding new ways to use old words, but, linguistically speaking, this process has been going on for centuries. It’s part of every human’s innate linguistic creativity. Much interesting. So language. Wow, antimeria.


About Andrew C.

I'm a grad student at UC Berkeley.
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