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Teaching Time: Is analog English out?


phuketsub
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I am an English-language teacher, currently teaching mostly prathom level students. 

 

For many years I put a priority on getting kids able to 'tell the time' in English: 

'2:15=Quarter past two', '9:50=Ten to ten', as based on the analog clock. 

 

But since the main point is to get the kids to be able to communicate effectively, I have been wondering if all that is useful anymore given that the majority of clocks seem to be analog these days. 

 

The issue raised itself again when I was recently talking to a friend back in the States who said that even 

his two teenage kids there had trouble talking about time in the analog way, but rather just read it off the clock:

2:15= two fifteen, 9:50=nine-fifty. 

 

So I guess I am just wondering if anyone else on this topic on a very rainy day down here in Songkhla...

 

 

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Don't Americans usually say 15 after, or a quarter after, rather than quarter past? Ditto (in reverse) with quarter to. Not that we need to emulate Americans of course, just that it's better to standardise imho.

 

Consequently I've come to the conclusion that 3.15 = three fifteen or 2.45 = two forty five etc. This is also the simplest way to tell the time in Thai too, so it's the easiest  method for Thais of all ages to pick up, and suits British, American and other native forms of English.

 

But thank Buddha that telling the time in English is less difficult than the traditional Thai way of splitting the 24 hours into 4 segments.

 

PS I've never actually seen two fifteen for example as exclusively analog, but I see what you mean.

 

 

Edited by blackprince
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12 hours ago, blackprince said:

Don't Americans usually say 15 after, or a quarter after, rather than quarter past? Ditto (in reverse) with quarter to. Not that we need to emulate Americans of course, just that it's better to standardise imho.

 

Consequently I've come to the conclusion that 3.15 = three fifteen or 2.45 = two forty five etc. This is also the simplest way to tell the time in Thai too, so it's the easiest  method for Thais of all ages to pick up, and suits British, American and other native forms of English.

 

But thank Buddha that telling the time in English is less difficult than the traditional Thai way of splitting the 24 hours into 4 segments.

 

PS I've never actually seen two fifteen for example as exclusively analog, but I see what you mean.

 

 

I agree that standardization could be helpful. Image how much easier what the world would be like if all the countries drove on the same side of the road, for example. 

 

As for the difference between Br. E and Am. E, telling time is pretty much the same, except that Americans are more likely to say "three-thirty" than 'half-past three' and they also tend to drop the indefinite article for "quarter past" and "half past". But those are just minor differences and for the most part we remain very mutually intelligible in this area, unlike in other realms such as describing parts of a car.

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17 hours ago, MarcelV said:

My well-off, homeschooled students in Narathiwat certainly had difficulty telling the time as well.

Maybe you and I are just getting old.

I know I am!

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11 minutes ago, phuketsub said:

I agree that standardization could be helpful. Image how much easier what the world would be like if all the countries drove on the same side of the road, for example. 

 

As for the difference between Br. E and Am. E, telling time is pretty much the same, except that Americans are more likely to say "three-thirty" than 'half-past three' and they also tend to drop the indefinite article for "quarter past" and "half past". But those are just minor differences and for the most part we remain very mutually intelligible in this area, unlike in other realms such as describing parts of a car.

The Americans I know rarely say "guarter to" or "quarter past". In that idiom, they are more likely to say "quarter before", "quarter of", or "quarter after".

 

The fact that you believe that mutual intelligibility between native speakers of different strains of English, and the "minor differences" therein, has any bearing on what  is suitable to teach primary students in Thailand perhaps indicates that teaching is not your true vocation.

 

What may be a "minor difference" to you will definitely not be a minor difference to a 7 year old Thai who gets a few hours exposure to English a week at best in an overcrowded classroom with a monolingual teacher.

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Interesting 

 

I teach Chinese kids, we have set American curriculum, in the elementary levels we use o'clock to practice numbers, then we start teaching basic time expanding the grammar using the "non-analogue" way but starting with 3-oh-five for 3:05, etc.

Each level revisits the time topic, expanding the content .. its quite hard to keep the kids on track, at 7-8 years, most seem to be aware of and are comfortable to use half past and a quarter to / past, but a good proportion (80%) still make constant basic errors saying "three thirty o'clock" or grammar mistakes when questioned about daily routine "I at eleven thirty eat lunch" (which I presume is Chinese grammar structure).

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13 minutes ago, recom273 said:

Interesting 

 

I teach Chinese kids, we have set American curriculum, in the elementary levels we use o'clock to practice numbers, then we start teaching basic time expanding the grammar using the "non-analogue" way but starting with 3-oh-five for 3:05, etc.

Each level revisits the time topic, expanding the content .. its quite hard to keep the kids on track, at 7-8 years, most seem to be aware of and are comfortable to use half past and a quarter to / past, but a good proportion (80%) still make constant basic errors saying "three thirty o'clock" or grammar mistakes when questioned about daily routine "I at eleven thirty eat lunch" (which I presume is Chinese grammar structure).

Nice to see a rare comment based on classroom experience.

 

If you take just British and American English, and add in the 24 hour clock, there are getting on for 10 sub-variations on how to tell the time.

 

Hence my suggestion of staying with a universal standard that is also the most common way Thais tell the time.

 

ie 3.45 = "three forty-five" etc.

 

There is also the opportunity to add a bit of mental arithmetic to the mix when dealing with the 24 hour clock frequently found in timetables.

 

ie 15.45 = "three forty-five" etc

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Why do you think this is something that is specific for English and UK? Open your eyes, I happens all over the world, and UK just happens to be a tiny part of it.

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13 minutes ago, Gottfrid said:

Why do you think this is something that is specific for English and UK? Open your eyes, I happens all over the world, and UK just happens to be a tiny part of it.

I'm not sure who you are aiming this comment at, but my comments were explicitly in the context of native English variants, the two most taught being British and American.

 

I have never seen an international student English course book based on other native variants like Australian, Canadian or New Zealand etc; they may exist, but in my experience English in international contexts is usually taught as British or American English.

 

Being an English person myself (though long lapsed) I'd prefer to call British English "English English", because at that time the Scots, Welsh, Irish (and most of England) were not speaking English, and the Americas and antipodes had not been colonised by the English (among others), but I know that might offend the sensitivities of many dear friends on this forum.

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12 minutes ago, phuketsub said:

It sounds to me like you have insufferable brit syndrome coupled with classroom fatigue. What learners want is the ability to communicate effectively -- end of story. Good day, your highness.

My work permit doesn't say "teacher", but I do teach (legally) for fun to higher students occasionally.

 

"Insufferable brit" - moi? - zut alors! I won't reply in kind.

 

PS. It's precisely because English is best taught as a communicative medium that we should focus on an international standard (that includes the most common Thai way of telling the time), as I have proposed. Rather than fill 7 year olds up with the vagaries of native time-telling subvariants.

 

 

Edited by blackprince
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6 hours ago, blackprince said:

The Americans I know rarely say "guarter to" or "quarter past". In that idiom, they are more likely to say "quarter before", "quarter of", or "quarter after".

 

The fact that you believe that mutual intelligibility between native speakers of different strains of English, and the "minor differences" therein, has any bearing on what  is suitable to teach primary students in Thailand perhaps indicates that teaching is not your true vocation.

 

What may be a "minor difference" to you will definitely not be a minor difference to a 7 year old Thai who gets a few hours exposure to English a week at best in an overcrowded classroom with a monolingual teacher.

Oh, my!  The "High and the Mighty" have checked in.  Heaven help us! ☹️

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Just returning to the notion of communicative English aka English for communication which someone raised earlier. This is frequently what Teflers are taught on their 4 week courses. And often that's all they know or care to know.

 

This approach is fine in ESL environments where it actually evolved (eg UK, NZ, Canada, Oz, US etc), or for Thai adults in Thailand who need to communicate with foreigners or who wish to travel abroad, but it's professionally negligent in Thai government primary and secondary schools where the real benefit an English teacher can provide, whether Thai or foreign, is to help the pupils get a good enough ONET, GAT/PAT, NT, GPA result to get a good place at university.

 

Just one thing further before I bid farewell to this thread, a monolingual foreigner is hardly the best role model for a struggling bilingual pupil in a government school in Thailand.

 

Have fun xxx

 

 

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8 hours ago, phuketsub said:

I agree that standardization could be helpful. Image how much easier what the world would be like if all the countries drove on the same side of the road, for example. 

 

As for the difference between Br. E and Am. E, telling time is pretty much the same, except that Americans are more likely to say "three-thirty" than 'half-past three' and they also tend to drop the indefinite article for "quarter past" and "half past". But those are just minor differences and for the most part we remain very mutually intelligible in this area, unlike in other realms such as describing parts of a car.

and if every country had the same currency, the same language, the same food, the same scenery, etc

 

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10 hours ago, blackprince said:

The Americans I know rarely say "guarter to" or "quarter past". In that idiom, they are more likely to say "quarter before", "quarter of", or "quarter after".

 

The fact that you believe that mutual intelligibility between native speakers of different strains of English, and the "minor differences" therein, has any bearing on what  is suitable to teach primary students in Thailand perhaps indicates that teaching is not your true vocation.

 

What may be a "minor difference" to you will definitely not be a minor difference to a 7 year old Thai who gets a few hours exposure to English a week at best in an overcrowded classroom with a monolingual teacher.

It could be regional. I'm American and I say quarter till and quarter past.  I've never in my life said quarter of. 

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I have taught time in both schools and at a private tutorial that I worked at for many years.  I hate teaching time.  For most students it's not easy -- it's based on 12 or 24 and up to that point, numbers were based on 10.  So, there is some real frustration and time is being taught well before fractions -- half past, quarter to, etc.  

 

What I do is follow the assigned curriculum.  I've used both American and British.  If it is an American curriculum or book, then stick with that.  If it's British, stick with that.  Be consistent.

 

I do always familiarize the students with the other system though I don't stress it, they learn it's 3:30 then they should have some idea of what half-past 3 means.  

 

Also use it in a practical manner.  What time does class start?  What time is lunch?  Bedtime.  

 

Go slow and try to reduce frustration.  They will get it, but some students catch on very slowly.  

 

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17 hours ago, phuketsub said:

But those are just minor differences and for the most part we remain very mutually intelligible in this area, unlike in other realms such as describing parts of a car.

and parts of the body as I learned from a British Lady coworker. Seems Americans keep our "fanny" in the back and everyone has 1 where as in England... :wai:

As for teaching Time in primary school here in Thailand, I (used to teach, 21 yrs, now retired) taught analog and digital combined as Thai time appears to be based on the military 24 hour clock hence hearing "21 o'clock" a an answer to 9pm.

Our favorite "game" was me drawing blank clocks (round and rectangular) and writing the time and then reversing it by drawing the time and having the student write it. Took generally 10 minutes to set up and run through every (or every other) morning and made for a nice eye opener for the day's lesson.

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4 hours ago, mrwebb8825 said:

and parts of the body as I learned from a British Lady coworker. Seems Americans keep our "fanny" in the back and everyone has 1 where as in England... :wai:

As for teaching Time in primary school here in Thailand, I (used to teach, 21 yrs, now retired) taught analog and digital combined as Thai time appears to be based on the military 24 hour clock hence hearing "21 o'clock" a an answer to 9pm.

Our favorite "game" was me drawing blank clocks (round and rectangular) and writing the time and then reversing it by drawing the time and having the student write it. Took generally 10 minutes to set up and run through every (or every other) morning and made for a nice eye opener for the day's lesson.

I've done the clock drawing game as well. I had two stints working at Rajabhat and the second time was 'tourism' majors, mostly students preparing to be tour guides. I was pretty shocked that none of them were competent at telling time. Fortunately, the course allowed me to set up my own curriculum, so that I made that a top priority. There was a big analog clock on the wall, so every five minutes I would draw a name at random (50+ students, if they all showed up) and ask them 'What time is it?' I think the fear of possible embarrassment motivated them to get competent at it. 

 

I have been teaching here on and off for 30+ years. I started out of necessity, then got fluent in Thai and worked in the media for many years, but I continued teaching on the side to motivated students. Then the media just sort of died out, and I went back to it -- not really out of financial necessity, but because I enjoy it and, let's face it, if you do something for that long you tend to get better at it over time -- even if you don't have a TEFL certificate to show off. 

 

My little school here in the south has been closed since April (you know why), but I still have all the students I can handle online. At least it keeps me fairly accurate in trying to keep track of what day it is. 

 

One of the things I have experienced over the many years of teaching is how it is looked down upon by so many with 'real jobs' (including time share hustlers and other scam artists). When I started working in the media doing investigative journalism and writing editorials, I thought that would be my 'life's work'. But over time the media outlet I worked for sold off their archives and much of that now rests in unsearchable .pdf files that will never be read again or used as research. (Thaiger, please take note)

 

On the contrary, some of the students I taught as kids decades ago are now grown up and doing well in their various life pursuits and keep in touch, making the teaching experience more gratifying in the long run by far. 

 

Anyway, I count myself as extremely lucky to have been able to get by here on teaching for so many years. It would never have been an option if I weren't a native speaker with a strong interest in languages, so I feel like I am eternally grateful for that. I'd like to keep on doing it as long as I can. 

 

Anyway, sorry for such a long post...that's just the morning coffee at work. But I would like to hear from other long-time teachers who are winding down their careers or considering retirement. 

Edited by phuketsub
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Oh dear, now it took NINE posts in a thread in the Teaching in Thailand forum to get to the bickering? Come on guys, you're losing your touch! 🤣

 

My American grandparents said half past, quarter 'til, etc. They spent their lives with analog clocks and watches.

 

My mom spoke a combo of analog and digital. She wore an analog watch, but had digital clocks around the house. This was the 80's.

 

Then us 80's kids all spoke digital. I'm late for GI Joe, it's 3-oh-5 PM. Casio watches were all the rage.

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19 hours ago, HAPPYNUFF said:

Thai time is usually expressed in the one word  style....."later"

Ah, but "later" is used to destroy all hope of it ever happening w/o being negative while "Coming Soon" is used to string you along til you realize they meant "later". 😄

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