Joey and the ESL

From Teflpedia

“Joey and the ESL” /ˈʤəʊ.i: ən(d) ði:(j)ˈi:(j)ˈes ˈel/ is an episode[1][2] of the American TV comedy show Joey which features an English as a second language class.

The episode centres on the series’ eponymous male lead character, Joey Tribbiani (played by Matt le Blanc), a native English speaker, who attends an English as a second language (ESL) class in order to attempt to pursue a romantic relationship with a woman, Maria (Joyce Giraud), who is attending the class as a student.

Episode information[edit | edit source]

The number of the episode is series 2, episode 6 (S02E06), and was first broadcast on October the 20th, 2005. The director was Peter Bonerz, and the particular episode was written by Vanessa McCarthy.

Setting[edit | edit source]

The series is set in Los Angeles in California, one of the United States.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Scene 2 sees Joey going to Caltech to pick up his nephew Michael (played by Paulo Costanzo), but instead of waiting for Michael follows Maria, a woman he finds attractive, into a classroom. A sign on the door tells us it’s an English as a Second Language class. The teacher, Ms. Lafferty (Mo Collins), presuming Joey is a new student, compliments him on his English accent, explains that the class is a beginner-level and asks if he’s sure he’s in the right place. Joey insists he is. The class’s homework was to learn counting of the cardinal numbers up to 10; student Boris (Alex Reznik) impresses the teacher by counting two more numbers, and the teacher praises Boris by saying "somebody’s gonna get a gold star". Joey then demonstrates he can count to 15. This establishes a conflict between Joey and Boris, both within the class, and for the romantic attentions of Maria.

After a scene involving another, parallel, plotline, Joey goes on a date with Maria to a bar. Joey impresses Maria with his pronunciation of English words including corduroy, harpsichord, and ibuprofen (rule of three).

Joey returns to the class with Maria. There he rather rudely helps a student Renata (Sharmila Devar) who is struggling to read the word school. He then speed reads a "tough sentence" The bell rang. The students all went to the auditorium with their teacher. After Maria mispronounces tough as /tʌg/, Joey teaches Maria about the digraphgh⟩ representing an unvoiced labiodental fricative /f/, to which Maria responds "Joey, make love to me tonight" */təˈnaɪft/ over-applying the rule as it doesn’t apply to ⟨igh⟩.

Ms Lafferty now asks for students to "take out their homework on the subjunctive tense". Here, Ms Lafferty uses inaccurate metalanguage since the subjunctive is a grammatical mood and not a tense. By the magic of TV, the class has somehow gone from beginner level to intermediate level. Joey answers that the English (past) subjunctive form is "If I was…", but Boris corrects him to "If I were" and receives praise from Ms Lafferty. Here, the teacher has made an error in her language analysis since the past tense subjunctive is at best applied inconsistently by native English speakers. Joey is mocked by Renata *"Joey are stupid", and Joey corrects her subject-verb agreement to "Joey is stupid", comically missing the obvious inappropriacy of her insult.[3]

Later (after more scenes covering a parallel storyline), Maria wants to go on a picnic date with Joey, but Joey has become competitive and insists that he has to study in order to remain the number one student. He criticises Maria for making the "error" of ending a sentence with a preposition, and their relationship ends with Maria saying something in Spanish [what exactly?].

Back in class, Ms Lafferty asks for an example of a multiple homonym, for which Joey volunteers they’re, their, and there. The rest of the class have become to dislike Joey because he has now become a dominant student, being accused of being "brown-nosed teacher’s pet" by Boris, who is now very friendly with Maria. Joey wins a "gold star" as a prize for top-scoring on a quiz, and is rude to the rest of the class. Joey’s classmates don’t invite Joey to student Juan’s (Manny Hernandez’s) upcoming citizenship party, and mock him for having appeared dressed as a giant soda can in an advertisement for the Russian[4] drink "Splort" (Сплорт), one of the consequences of the parallel storyline. In the final conversation, Joey asks "Hollywood homely"[5] student Sonja (Caroline Choi) out for a coffee, but she rejects his offer, leaving Joey alone but content with his gold star.

Analysis[edit | edit source]

The episode is an example of ESL in popular culture. As a sit-com, the “rule of funny”[6] is applied and the audience is aware of this. It’s not explained why Caltech has a beginner-level ESL class, since its students would typically be required to be functionally proficient in English as a prerequisite of being accepted onto a course. Similarly, the rapid improvement of the class from beginner level to intermediate level is not explained. Other main tropes employed are “all men are perverts”.[7] and “girl of the week”.[8]

References[edit | edit source]