The institute where I am teaching, believes that it is important for their students to be exposed to a variety of teaching styles and accents when learning English. As a result, students are not assigned to one particular teacher, but rather, the teachers rotate between the groups regularly. Last night I had class with one of my favorite groups.

This group of three women is in Level 2 and they all speak surprisingly good English for being so early in the program. Since there are together every day for class, they have formed friendships between each other which makes the learning atmosphere more enjoyable. They are funny and sweet and their enthusiasm is one of the highlights of my job.

Last night, we were reviewing the words like/love/hate/enjoy. The task was for each student to think about when they were a young child and tell the class what they liked, loved, hated and enjoyed.

Merli started by telling the class that she, “loved to go swimming everyday but I hated to drink quaquer.” She and Eloisa burst into laughter as they reminisced about this horrid childhood drink. I didn’t have a clue what she was referring to, but didn’t ask because I wanted her to finish her statements. After she was done speaking and we had discussed a few corrections I asked, “Merli, what is quaquer?”

She told me, “It’s a drink, but is very dense. Sort of like yogurt.”

I still had no idea what she meant. I started to wonder if it was sort of like the very dense, yogurt like qwark that I loved in Germany, but you eat, not drink, qwark. Eloisa also struggled to come up with the words to adequately describe quaquer. I asked Merli how to spell the word and I wrote on the board:


And still, the language barrier was high. Finally, Eloisa pulled out her Blackberry and did a quick search for the translation of quaquer. The result: oats. As in Quaker oats.

I let out an enthusiastic, “Ohhhhhhh, Quaker oats!!!”

Everyone had a good laugh as we reveled in the relief of finally having the answer and in the realization that the words for “oats” is Spanish is nothing but a Spanishized version of the biggest name brand.

I then asked Merli, “But did you drink [making a drinking gesture with my coffee cup] the oats?”

“Yes,” she replied, “I drank them.”

Thinking that she was wrong, but yet surprised that at this level she didn’t know the difference between to eat and to drink. I said again, “No, but did you drink [again making the gesture] the oats?”

“Yes,” she said, “in Peru, we drink them. That’s why it’s so terrible.”

“Oh,” I replied, “that does sound terrible. In the States you eat them.” I completely agree. Drinking oatmeal sounds awful, no wonder she hated it as a kid. To that I would have to say no gracias.