Discrimination | Utah

Utah ESL Blogger Fired for 'Promoting a Gay Agenda' With Post About Homophones

TorkildsonTim Torkildson, a social media manager for a Utah English school for ESL students, has been fired for blogging like homophones after his employer Clarke Woodger expressed concern that students might misinterpret the word as a reference to gay sex. Homophones, words that sound the same but mean different things.

“I didn't know what the hell you were talking about.” Torkildson recounted Woodger telling him. “We don't teach this kind of advanced stuff to our students, and it's extremely inappropriate. Can you have your desk cleaned out by eleven this morning? I'll have your check ready."

Woodger corroborated Torkildson’s account of the conversation to the Salt Lake Tribune, insisting that "People at this level of English may see the 'homo' side and think it has something to do with gay sex."

Homophones are often thought to be one of the more challenging aspects of the English language for those new to it. Torkildson is of the school of thought that the class of words are  crucial and “one of the first subjects tackled when teaching ESL” because the language is rife with them.

London-based filmmaking duo Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston’s short film Skwerl about what English sounds like to non-English speakers highlights Torkildson’s point perfectly. Check it out AFTER THE JUMP...


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  1. This is the level of intelligence of the people running some of these schools -- particularly the for-profit ones. The administrator who couldn't be bothered to learn what he was talking about should be fired and if the rest of the school is of that level, it should be closed.

    Posted by: Alex Parrish | Aug 1, 2014 11:00:40 AM

  2. This is so typical. Everything about the right wing is about being deliberately ignorant. Deliberately ignorant of science that conflicts with what a two-thousand-year-old book might be interpreted to say, deliberately ignorant of anything they might not want to hear, and now deliberately ignorant of things that SOUND like anything they might not want to hear.

    Posted by: Rich | Aug 1, 2014 11:01:35 AM

  3. their kidding right?

    Posted by: mymy | Aug 1, 2014 11:02:55 AM

  4. Only in Ewetaw

    Posted by: Michael | Aug 1, 2014 11:02:58 AM

  5. One weeps for our nation. These are the fruits of 30+ years of Republican/conservative rule: absolute, willful, unapologetic, unrepentant ignorance. God help us all.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Aug 1, 2014 11:06:07 AM

  6. any utah school should know better than to employ a homosapien.

    confusing english with gay sex? i must have been speaking incorrectly all these years...

    Posted by: northalabama | Aug 1, 2014 11:08:03 AM

  7. Sounds like Utah needs to increase funding for English as a First Language classes.

    Posted by: Lymis | Aug 1, 2014 11:10:19 AM

  8. "any utah school should know better than to employ a homosapien"

    Chances are they outlawed science quite a while back, so that term likely never comes up. Certainly sapience itself is in short supply out there, at least among people in positions of public responsibility.

    Posted by: Lymis | Aug 1, 2014 11:13:37 AM

  9. @RICK Really? Shall we remember those controversies of recent years where people objected to the use of the word "niggardly"? Ignorance and stupidity overwhelm both the left and the right in this country

    Posted by: mikeinqueens | Aug 1, 2014 11:15:31 AM

  10. Having taught ESL, I will attest that homophones need to be addressed early on. They can even be challenging to native speakers of English. Are they the most difficult things to teach? I think I would say counted nouns and uncounted nouns are a great strain on ESL students.

    Posted by: Mike in the Tundra | Aug 1, 2014 11:16:07 AM

  11. The same employer wants to know if the reason homosapiens went extinct is because they were HOMOsapiens.

    Posted by: crispy | Aug 1, 2014 11:18:21 AM

  12. LOL Young Karl & Fiona are very good actors.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Aug 1, 2014 11:19:19 AM

  13. They call themselves an English school BUT they do not know what HOMOPHONES are? Your kidding right?

    Have not had such a laugh since I saw two loud tea party types quite shocked by a sign in the dairy case that said "HOMO MILK".

    Posted by: Mike | Aug 1, 2014 11:21:07 AM

  14. I heard they fired him because the heard he was a pedagogue, and they were afraid he'd molest all the children.

    Posted by: Bubba in Texas | Aug 1, 2014 11:21:20 AM

  15. This is neither a left or right issue. This is a simple matter of complete and total ignorance.

    “We don't teach this kind of advanced stuff to our students, and it's extremely inappropriate." Advanced?!?! I learned about homophones when I was in 2nd grade! This is not ADVANCED for an ESL learner, as a matter of fact it's imperative to learn when dealing with words like: there, their, and they're, as a simple example.

    I'm sick to death how we butcher our language and strive to teach less and less about proper grammar and syntax.

    Just look at what Oxford did with defining "literally": http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/literally.

    Lastly, we are all well aware that language is a "living" entity and does change over time, but I would love to take France's position around keeping some fcuking standards: http://www.academia.edu/200588/France_and_Language_s_Old_Policies_and_New_Challenges_in_Education._Towards_a_Renewed_Framework.

    It just seems we want to justify our laziness in using poorly spelled words, stupid acronyms, and forced synonyms. UGH!!!!

    Posted by: Mile High Native | Aug 1, 2014 11:22:57 AM

  16. This is a joke right?

    Posted by: Will | Aug 1, 2014 11:26:44 AM

  17. @MIKE: "Your kidding right?"

    Whose kidding?

    Posted by: JJ | Aug 1, 2014 11:36:32 AM

  18. Infuriating, unless the teacher is Mormon. Then it's karma.

    Posted by: JJ | Aug 1, 2014 11:41:02 AM

  19. There is no homophone for "laughingstock".

    Posted by: Esther Blodgett | Aug 1, 2014 11:59:19 AM

  20. Although we are still living in a hateful world, the ignorance here astounds me.

    Posted by: Michael Angelo | Aug 1, 2014 12:55:02 PM

  21. "Teh st00pid, it BURNS."

    Posted by: Mark Alexander | Aug 1, 2014 1:04:27 PM

  22. Oh boy, does this ever have successful LAWSUIT written all over it!

    Posted by: Zlick | Aug 1, 2014 1:15:56 PM

  23. Sue that school, its board and the director, Tim...you should have the top guys job, and he needs another... less taxing on his limited intellect...career.

    Posted by: Chazwm | Aug 1, 2014 1:33:24 PM

  24. @Jamal49: He did his best 2000+ years ago, and look what that got him ... nailed to a cross

    Posted by: SFRowGuy | Aug 1, 2014 2:32:03 PM

  25. @mymy - Please tell us you're kidding, right?

    Posted by: Carmelo | Aug 1, 2014 2:34:03 PM

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