Tonight during ESL class I made an offhand comment that one of the students was lucky. Another student, a very sweet older woman, said to me, "Lucky? What is this?"
How do you explain "lucky" to someone who understands and speaks very little English? "Lucky is when something good happens to you," I start out.
"Something good," she says.
"Yes, like...okay." I go over to my purse and take out a dollar bill, throw it on the floor, and then proceed to act out walking around idly and suddenly finding money on the floor. I pick it up; I'm excited. "I'm lucky!" (This is the unglamorous reality of teaching ESL when you only speak English.)
"I like when she acts," says one of my students. He's speaking directly to me. We haven't worked on pronouns yet.
"I know you do," I say. I once pantomimed football for him, reducing the game to sporadically interrupted suicide runs, which it basically is anyway.
Another guy imitates scratching a lottery ticket. "I win money," he says. "I'm lucky!"
Hmmm. Any non-money related examples? Didn't she see Napolean? "Shocks, pegs...lucky!"
"Lucky," she says. "I go to a party, I'm lucky."
"Good," I say, thinking, that depends on the party. (Most of the things you'd think of saying back to her don't really work: sort of, kind of, getting warmer, you're close...luckily working with young kids knocks all that figurative shit right out of you.)
I ended up borrowing her Russian-English dictionary and finding "lucky" for her. But she didn't have her glasses with her so I wrote it on the board. Have you ever written a word in Russian before? It's basically like inside out, upside down English. But she got it, and after she corrected my penmanship she told me they have nine vowels in Russian. And good parties, apparently.