Teaching with Proverbs

by V. Sainbayar
V. Sainbayar, Ph.D., is head of the foreign language department at Khovd University.

     Before planning and organizing our lessons, we need to have clear in our minds exactly what our subject matter is; what sorts of things are included in the grammar, and what is involved in “knowing ” the structure.  Some structures have exact parallels in the students’ native language and are easily mastered. There is the possibility of using proverbs for teaching present simple tense. Present simple tense is often used to express the truth, for repeating and for generalization. Related to it, proverbs also express truth and repetition.
     If we use something familiar in our lesson,  the process of teaching will be more effective. For example: In Mongolia people educate their children through saying proverbs, and as a result the children know many proverbs. Since long ago proverbs have been used.
    I think when we teach the present simple tense, proverbs can be a good example and method. Also, if we teach present simple through proverbs, the material will be most thoroughly and permanently learned by our students.
  • Materials:  Individual copies of a list of well-known proverbs that are in the present simple tense. 
  • Procedure: Read through the list of proverbs with the class, clarifying any difficult vocabulary and making sure the meaning of each is understood. Then divide the class into small groups, and ask each group to pick out proverbs they think are untrue or misleading . They should discuss what is wrong with the proverbs, and invent a version that seems better to them. At the end, the class should come together and discuss each proverb and its new version.
  • Variations: Students can be asked to learn the proverbs by heart; in the next class you can ask them to recall and write out as many as they can.
     It is quite interesting to compare proverbs in the foreign language to similar ones in the students’ native language, and discuss the similarities and differences between them.
     Your students can try to organize them into categories based on the proverbs’ subjects.  They could also be organized by meaning.

Now let’s look at some examples that can be used for educating students: 
  1. The brave die once
  2. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
  3. A good beginning makes a good ending
  4. Measure twice and cut once
  5. Fools have fortune
  6. One barking dog sets all the street a barking
  7. Every bird likes its own nest
  8. Clothes make the man
  9. Little drops of water make the mighty ocean
  10. A stitch in time saves nine