The TEFL Bubble

bubbles-final.jpg“After you live in the UK for a year or two, you get used to driving on the left.”

This was my example of “get used to doing” something – in contrast, of course, to “used to do” something, an example I was happy with until one guy said “We drive on the left, too.” I kind of scrunched my eyebrows and made to move on. Until someone else agreed with him. What was going on? One person can be a good-natured heckler, but more? The discussion was apparently so urgent and interesting that it compelled students to switch to L1.

For a small chunk of time – with all these people apparently saying they drive on the left – I seriously doubted myself. Was I an idiot?

Luckily, no (well, at least not because of my example sentence). I’d been correct in my initial assumption that my students didn’t drive on the left…side of the road. Apparently the point was that they sit on the left side of the car . In fact this had come up some time ago with another group I’d taught, probably because of the way they would say this in their own language, where“drive” and “ride” are the same word, and I’d simply forgotten.

I don’t mean to make a point about this example (I think it’s a stellar one for “get used to doing”) or even about the issue of familiarizing yourself with your students’ culture and language (like being 100% sure which side of the road they drive on)…but to make an analogy to a wider issue. I was sure they drove on the right but when a couple of people said the contrary, I didn’t doubt their correctness or sanity, I doubted my own. It made me wonder how much this happens in TEFL or the wider world: are there somewhat “out there” things we accept because enough people believe them, even though they might be contrary to our common sense?