Uh oh, I pulled a Seth

1. Noun – A humorous mistake in common English speech
2. Verb phrase – “To pull a Seth” – To make a humorous mistake (Sethism) in common English speech, esp while teaching.

In context

Person A: What did you do this weekend?”
Person B: “I went to see movie…I mean A movie.”
Person A: “Haha, I heard that Sethism! “
Person A: “Yeah yeah. Anyway, I liked the movie, it was very fun.
Person B: “Don’t you mean FUNNY?
Person A: “Dammit, you’re right! I need to stop that, I can’t afford to pull a Seth like that in class.

My name is Seth, I am an ESL teacher, and I have a problem.

It started with just a few dropped articles…no big deal, my friends hardly noticed. But soon enough I was also skipping and jumbling prepositions. I tried to live on, as if nothing was happening to me, but I knew it was getting more and more obvious. Then things turned really ugly, and even I couldn’t ignore where I was headed. The infantile vocabulary, the mixed modals, the tragically mis-conjugated verbs. I…I knew it was only a matter of time before my syntax slipped and I became completely incomprehensible!

But I’m here today to tell you that I am no longer a victim, I am a survivor – thanks to my CELTA class.

You see, I fell victim to an all too common, though still ironic, hazard of the ESL teaching workplace – bad English.

After days, weeks and months of being exposed to bad English by my students, my brain slowly rewired itself. The Korean language, with its lack of particles (a, an, the) and scant use of pronouns (he, she, me, it) and prepositions (on, to, over, beside, with, …) made me forget how to properly speak English.

When I got to the CELTA course, everyone understood my problem. All my fellow trainees had experience teaching English in countries across the world, so they knew  what I was going through. However, I was by far the worst offender durring the course.

My instructor John called it “Pidgin,” while Barry called it “Tarzan Speak.” My students didn’t notice, since they were beginners, but my fellow trainees sure noticed, and by the end of the course whenever anyone else made a similarly mangled sentence , they called it a “Sethism” or “Pulling a Seth.”

I was able to fix my problem over the course of my CELTA (public humiliation can be a great motivator), and it didn’t affect my grade too badly. But It’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of teaching overseas, and of taking the CELTA course

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3 Responses to Uh oh, I pulled a Seth

  1. Danni says:

    Oh I am so happy I came across this blog post!!! I just came back to Ireland after spending 3 years teaching English in China. I started a Masters in Linguistics and for the first month or so, I found it really difficult to speak English. I thought I was going nuts! Things are better now, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who has experienced this ^^

    • workislove says:

      Haha, you’re definitely not alone! Me and one of my coworkers at my last job really struggled with it.

  2. Jani says:

    Hi Seth,

    I just wanted to say a massive thank you for taking the time to write this blog. I am commencing my CELTA course in a few days and have been going through moments of being somewhat stressed out … most of the time whilst staring at the Pre Course work that needs to be completed! This blog was great to read – to get a better idea of what I am getting in to and also to get my head back into reality and why I signed up to do this in the first place. Legend! Cheers!

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