Correcting use of ‘Enjoy’ with prefixes and suffixes

Every English teacher in Japan has their own pet peeves. Some people can’t stand the strangely common phrase ‘I want to go to shopping.’ Other people find the overuse of the full stop soul crushing in sentences like ‘I’m hungry. Because I didn’t eat.’

One of mine comes from the way bits and pieces of English are picked up and turned into Japanese. It’s the word ‘enjoy’ and it gets my goat up to constantly hear ‘Shopping is enjoy’ or have the question ‘Do you like English?’ answered ‘Yes, enjoy.’

One thing I’ve been doing with either higher level learners in English or lower level learners in Japanese is introducing them to prefixes and suffixes. This in itself is a sorely neglected area of Japanese English education, but I’ll save that for another day. What I’ve been doing is using ‘enjoy’ as an example of how a word is created, and at the same time slowly trying to reduce use of ‘enjoy’ and giving some promotion to the word ‘enjoyable’ as a loveable alternative.

I start off by explaining that ‘enjoy’ is a verb (動詞) and not an adjective (形容詞). In Japanese I usually say it is more like 楽しむ than 楽しい, or I might use ‘like’ in English. This usually gets a reaction. I then explain that the word ‘joy’ (喜び) is a noun (名詞). After the excitement and confusion settles down, I introduce en- as ‘to make’ and -able as ‘can/ be able to’. I sometimes even add un- as ‘not’ if I feel the anticipation and giddy mood created in the classroom, one-on-one lesson or bar is not sufficient.

We then practise putting it all together, starting with ‘joy’.

I am full of joy when I study English.

I show how the word is a noun, and then explain how to get a verb using en+joy (make+joy).

I enjoy studying English.

(Can also add that it’s similar to saying ‘I like studying English‘ or ‘I’m happy when I study English‘ if they don’t get it.)

I then demonstrate that if something is able to make you feel joy it is ‘en+joy+able’ (make+joy+can).

Studying English is enjoyable.

(Can also add that it’s similar to saying ‘Studying English is fun‘ or ‘Studying English makes people happy‘ if they don’t get it.)

If they get that all, I sometimes put ‘unenjoyable’ out there as a demonstration of how little bits of words can turn one word into four completely different words. I tend to tell them it’s not a particularly common word though.

Whether they want it or not, a list of the way simple words can become difficult words is presented. For example:

– Enrich

– Enlighten

– Endanger

– Enforce

Before I finish with them and let take their lunch break, get off the train or get back to their meal, I like to take the ‘joy‘ out of them by explaining how prefixes and suffixes ‘enable‘ them to understand how English words work and that that makes English all the more enjoyable.

I will admit it was probably too much to follow this all up with a blow-by-blow explanation of the word ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ the other day at the pub. The person in question wasn’t even in my Tuesday Chatting class, so I do apologise for my unsolicited grammar advances and admit that I got a little caught up in the moment. I still stand by the importance of adding a little explanation of the make up of words into your classes, as they are the foundation of language.

How about you? Have you tried teaching the parts of words? Has it been successful or unsuccessful? Also, what persistent  English mistakes grind your gears? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in our collection of teaching activities, do consider checking out the Take it Easy Teaching book.



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