Статья : The improvement of work on the rhythm in the classes of english on the materials of limericks 

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The improvement of work on the rhythm in the classes of english on the materials of limericks

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Even English acquired a status of the third language in Kazakhstan, but it is remained as the foreign language for majority of people, mastery of which is still problematical. English at high schools sometimes does not come easily to students that they make unbelievable efforts to catch the sense of the English speech. Who does not dream about the easy way of learning English? Because, usually it is rather long and exhausting process. It is commonly known, that language learning will become far interesting and productive, when the students are involved in creative activity.

Interactive forms of teaching give a chance to develop not only linguistic skills and abilities, but also permit to students using of English as the means of communication, they advance own imagination and memory. All of it raises a motivation to study the language.

One of the effective modes of motivating students to study the language is the using of creative works, such as dramas and composing the rhymes in possessing the language. This technology opens vast possibilities for individual and position-finding teaching, because here learners apply own unique life experience, own outlook [1]. I reminiscence that the main hero of Paul Maare’s fairy-tale “Eine Woche voller Samstage” – das Sams applied the method of composing nursery rhymes at the school, and his creative lesson pleased pupils, because they wanted him to teach again and again [2].

The given article examines the questions of improving the pronunciation and rhythm by the material of limerick or how it is said popularly, of English chastooshka. Limericks is represented integral part of linguistic culture of Anglophonic nation in the world. Limerick – is a popular form of short humorous poem, built on playing with nonsense, which is appeared in Great Britain. The origin of the limericks is unknown, though it is considered, that a name descended from the refrains of the songs, sang by Irish soldiers-militiamen upon French king Louie XVI. At the parties the soldiers performed the songs, each stanza of which ended with the refrains – Will you come up to Limerick? (or by another version: Won’t you come up to Limerick?). Therefore, the English word ‘limerick’ is pronounced with a stress on the first syllable – like the name of the city in Ireland, from which the title is came [3]. It is believed to be existed another hypothesis that the word ‘limerick’ is originated not from the name of Irish city, as majority think, but from the Irish words ‘laoi meidbreach’ or ‘a merry lay’, which mean ‘a merry song’ [4]. “The father of limericks” is considered to be the famous English poet, the king of English nonsense verse Edward Lear (1812-1888). Lear himself never called his comic verses ‘limericks’. The word ‘limerick’ firstly appeared posthumously in print in 1892. One way or another, after the end of XIX century limericks became broadly famous. Many well-known writers and poets as Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, John Galsworthy, Mark Twain and Arnold Bennett composed limericks. Pun character of limericks admits the free varying of the linguistic means in the frames of harsh rhyme. The characteristics of limerick are intentional play of words, homophony, ambiguity (homonymy), synonymy, polysemantic and the rich stylistic diversity of English words. Limerick plays with curious amusing discrepancy of English orthography and pronunciation, found their reflection in the special form of limerick, which is called ‘visual’ or ‘orthographical’. The pet mode of limerick authors – is using of neologisms. The neologisms and nonsense words of Edward Lear strongly entered the English literature and language [4]. The pentameter of the classical limerick builds by the scheme AABBA, that is, first, second and fifth lines are rhymed, in accordance with third and fourth. Here prevails the size of an anapest, and a quantity of the syllables in the first, second and fifth lines are longer for three syllables, than in the third and fourth [5]. Limericks are considered to be the splendid material for the production of correct phonetic organization of the English speech and especially of its rhythm. So, English scientist John Norrish writes about it:

“…. English is a stress-timed language…. Similarly, it is difficult for the speaker of the ‘syllable-timed’ language to understand normal English pronunciation…

Way of overcoming this problem of teaching stress patterns is by using the ‘limerick’, the comic verse from which relies for much its effect on the strongly marked rhythm. Teachers could demonstrate and encourage students to read aloud some of these verses:

There `was a young `lady of `Niger,

Who `smiled when she `rode on a `tiger.

They re`turned from the `ride

With the `lady in`side –

And the `smile on the `face of the `tiger.

As can be seen, the rhythmic pattern involves the stressed syllables each in the first and second lines, two in the next two lines and three once again in the final, fifth line. When recited, it is important that the stresses come at regular intervals… As we have seen, the stress timing of the limerick is also a characteristic of English speech. This is what makes it a useful teaching tool… such a teaching technique can be used as successfully for initial teaching of stress as for remedial teaching to eradicate errors” [6].

Thus, the structure of the limericks is the same, which very helps the students to read them easy and with the intonation. For instance, the variant created the humorous effect on the first line can correspond with the intonation of Low Rise, the intonation of the second with Low Fall. Further, the intonation sample repeats Low Rise in the third line, Low Fall in the fourth. In the last line there is the final lowering tone of the Low Fall. Gradually falling and slipping melodic scale has emotional-neutral character. Not infrequently before the last line, which has an outcome, we may sustain a long pause. The given variant of an oral implementation characterizes rapid tempo of the pronunciation [7].

During the auditorium lectures the limericks are read aloud by keeping their rhythmical form and by underlining the strong parts in each line. For the clear rhythm production I recommend to use a metronome, the strike speed of which can be changed in accordance with the given tempo – from the fast to the slow (lento, lentissimo > allegro, allegrissimo). We can pronounce the limerick by ourselves, then whisper, and at last, aloud, accompanying the pronunciation with the knocking on the stressed syllables of the lines. On the final stage of the working on limericks the students are offered to learn by heart and recite them, to put to the music and sing, to dramatize. The interesting type of the work is translating the limericks. The secret of translating is consisted in saving the rhyme, poetical size of the limerick, and not to lose their funny essence. Frequently, to keep the poetical form and the pan, the translators have to change proper names and ‘geography’ of the limerick. Given examples of translation by O. Astafyeva clearly shows an interpretation of the limericks in Russian.

Original [8]:

There was an old person of Dean,

Who dined on one pea and one bean;

For he said, ‘More than that

Would make me too fat’,

That cautious old man of Dean.

(Edward Lear).

Translation by O. Astafyeva:

Одинокий старик из Туниса

На обед съедал зернышко риса.

«Больше есть я не смею,

А не то растолстею», –

Объяснял он друзьям из Туниса.

Here we can see that the translator had to change the name of spot ‘Dean’ into ‘Tunisia’, as well as the peas and beans transformed into the rice. It is common case, when the translators change the proper names to keep the main sense of the comic verse. Also, there is another example which was made by two translators and shows the strict and unchangeable frames of the limerick rhyme.


As a beauty I’m not a great star,

There are others more handsome by far,

But my face, I don’t mind it,

Because I’m behind it –

‘Tis the folks in the front that I jar.

(Antony Euwer).

The translation close to the original (unknown author):

По красоте я вообще не звезда,

Есть люди симпатичнее меня.

Но не против лица я –

Ведь не вижу себя я,

Плохо лишь тем, кто видит меня.

The translation by M. Lorie:

Я красотой не блистал никогда,

Я не роза, скорей лебеда.

Это мне не обидно –

Мне себя ведь не видно.

Вот для встречных так, правда, беда.

The translation by M. Lorie is distinguished with the freedom of the interpretation, but they keep the rhyme of English limerick. The second variant from the pen of unknown translator does not possess the perfect form, but correctly sends the humorous sense of the limerick.

Thus, limericks are considered to be the great material for working on the correct phonetic organization of English speech and its rhythm. The rhythm of the English speech presents enormous difficulty to the Russian, as well as to the Kazakh auditorium. The isochronous form of English rhythm requires especially accurate work on it. Of course, English limerick permits to polish the good technique of the rhythm. The little limerick compactly and organically coupled an originality of a plot and the rhythm of the lines. Everyone will estimate at quaint humour of English nonsense verse true worth, who loves good laughter, play of intellect, witty words and sounds.


1. Tambulatova T.K., Using of creative tasks in foreign language, Foreign languages at school. 8 (2008), P. 28 – 31.

2. Maar P. Eine Woche voller Samstage. Hamburg, 1973.

3. Razheva Y.I., Limerick: non-transferable play of words or transferable play of forms?, Foreign languages at school. 2 (2008), P. 107 – 109.

4. Vishnevskaya G.M., Working on the rhythm of English speech by the materials of limericks, Foreign languages at school. 4 (2005), P. 79 – 86.

5. Yermakova I., Limericks. www.google.ru, 2009.

6. Norrish J. Language Learners and Their Errors. London, 1983.

7. Vishnevskaya G.M. Methodical directions for the working on the rhythm of English speech by the materials of limericks. Ivanovo, 2001.

8. Demurova N.M. The Topsy-Turvy World (English humour in rhymes). Moscow, 1974.

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