Updated: May 24
I once had a lovely Swiss student who enrolled in our language school in Cape Town, South Africa, when I first starting teaching ESL. She generally had a cheerful and sunny disposition, but the one day, she walked into my class with an uncharacteristic furrowed brow, and the look of bewilderment and confusion. When asked what the matter was, she told me she needed a sheet for her bed, but her house mother gave her a roll of toilet paper. “What exactly did you say to her?” I inquired, to which she replied, “I need sheet bed.”
After the tears of laughter had subsided, I explained to her that the way she had pronounced her words, sounded as they she had the urgent need to, well, poop. That there is a distinct difference in the way we pronounce sheet, as the long /iː/ sound (for example: sheep), as opposed to the short /ɪ/ sound (ship) and bed uses the /e/ (egg) sound not /æ/ (cat).
Fortunately, she had a good sense of humour and quickly saw how funny the situation actually was. She proceeded to vigorously practice her pronunciation to ensure she would never be handed a roll of toilet paper, instead of a sheet, again.
Here is an interactive video lesson I created, based on a video called The Italian Man Who Went To Malta.
PS. We frequently host teacher training and professional development workshops, both online and in situ. Places are limited to 10 people per class, and have proved popular to both seasoned and novice teachers alike. You are invited to join us, be sure to get in touch for more information!