How do you teach English to pandas?

    Sarah Brown

    Meng Meng and Jiao Qing were welcomed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Berlin Zoo hopes that the two celebrityPromi(nente(r))celebrities will have babies one day.

    Whenever I tell people that I teach English at the Berlin Zoo, I almost always get a questioning look. Behind it, the person is trying to tofigure sth. out (ifml.)etw. herausfindenfigure out who exactly I teach ... the animals?
     

    Watch Sarah Brown talk about her work in the Zoo


    Since June 2017, right before the arrival of the two new giant pandas, Meng Meng and Jiao Qing, I have been helping the panda keepers at the zoo to feel more comfortable and confident speaking English. And why do they need English? Who do they speak English with?

    Not the pandas, even though the language used for the medical training cueStichwortcues is actually English.They talk to the flood of international visitors and to visiting Chinese zookeepers who often come to check on the pandas, which are to be on loaneine Leihgabe seinon loan from China. They also need to be ready to give interviews in English with international journalists. This is why they need an English trainer.
     

    Pandas eat bamboo, lots of bamboo!


    So what are they learning? Basically, how to describe a panda’s life. And here’s what I’ve learned from them so far:

    • Pandas eat bambooBambusbamboo, lots of bamboo! They can eat up to 30 kilograms a day, and when they’re not eating, they’re sleeping.
    • The two of them live in separate enclosureGehegeenclosures at the zoo because that is how they live in nature — on their own, not in groups.
    • Giant pandas come from the cool, foggy mountains of south-western China.
    • They are endangeredvom Aussterben bedrohtendangered, with fewer than 2,000 of them living in the wild today.
    • mating seasonPaarungszeitMating season is short for pandas, with the female being in heat (US)brünstig, paarungsbereitin heat for only about 72 hours in the spring.

    It’s been a privilege to watch the panda programme develop and to see the pandas to settle into sth.sich in etw. einlebensettle into their new home. As a little girl, I wanted to be a zookeeper when I grew up. Now, I’m living out that dream vicariouslyindirektvicariously by helping the panda keepers do their job in English.

     

    Sarah Brown is an English-language coach based in Berlin. With more than 11 years’ experience teaching in Argentina, the US and Germany, she brings fun and ease to the language-learning process: Find out more: www.englishwithsarah.org

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