By: Daniel Otero
Yes, ‘believe it or not’! And focus on a singular truth… Would you teach English in a Chinese-cultural way? OMG (Oh my God), because we are in China, and I hear this most of the bloody time! Nah, this cannot be! It’s a serious lack of respect for other peoples’ cultural values. In other words, student’s parents go and pay for lessons which focus on an old English-styled system used over 100 years before. A system left behind for being boring and repetitious. Students learnt nothing and more often than not, forgot everything, causing social and widespread frustration. Memorization doesn’t work! To only repeat like a ‘parrot’ and read vocabulary, ha, utterly useless! And it’s only by a miracle or ways of passion do students [less than 10 percent, a fraction] learn anything at all.
Oh please, it’s time to change a method that’s definitely ‘broken’ and outdated.
For this purpose, it’s time to make classes more active and in the full swing of participation. Now, this is hard work on behalf of the educator and on the same hand, it has nothing to do with culture and with a little dedication, not impossible! There is a need to want to change. Not to radicalize the educational system, but better it according to the reality of society, present-day circumstances and the culture which is being taught. Not Chinese, you’ll, but English!
What I have been noticing is many English lessons taking place in China, 80% is in Chinese and only 20% in English. Un-bloody real!
Chinese and foreign educators are doing it and sadly, it’s not working!
Well, as with all my articles, there is criticism but also a solution to the ‘quagmire’. The problem can be resolved and here is a method that has worked for me in the past 20 years of instructing soldiers and students… I learnt it from a French professor back in the U.S.
He would say the following, “Outside of my classroom, it’s your culture and you do things according to your American way of life! Once you cross ‘that door’ into my classroom, you are in ‘France’ and everything here is done in the French culture and language. The French way! ‘My home, my castle, my rules…’ ”
Therefore, throughout the entire lesson he spoke 80 to 90% in French and only 10 to 20% in English. Wow! It forced us [the students] to participate and ask questions in French. So we did learn more and by the end of the semester our French had improved by 40 to 60%. Amazing to say the least! One of my best teachers–thanks Prof. Paiezy.
But instead, students are being ‘left behind’ in an educational system that doesn’t inspire, and there is the ever present social resistance.
When do people stop to say? In a language, culture should apply 100%. When I’m learning Chinese I wouldn’t want it any differently.
And please, don’t tell me, “We Chinese are a culture of 5,000 years. We follow everybody. We don’t argue with our teachers…” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… Boring! We are in 21st Century, it’s time to socially change and adapt to current circumstances (It is called globalization— if anybody hasn’t heard!) or be left behind. Let’s not double-speak, other we make it better or make it worse! But let’s not lie to each other. Makes us foolish!
Here is an example. How many years do Chinese study English? Here’s a quick answer, they do it on an average of 10 years and notice how little they know about our language and culture. How sad, to tell the truth! Because I bask in learning about Chinese culture, history, tasting the foods, travelling and getting a taste for the language… And I don’t feel reciprocated! The answer is right in front of us, denial of language and culture.
And this is an ongoing problem in Chinese education and immigration. It manifest when Chinese travel to other parts of the world, and they do it in isolating themselves into their communities whether it is in the U.K., U.S. or Australia. Student and immigrants want to only learn in their culture, instead of learning Western cultural ways, values and adapting to the reality of the environment they are living in.
There was an incident years ago that angered me in my hometown of New York City and it happened under the rule of former Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani. People were marching in protest all over Chinatown. The reason for the protest was to change the street and local signs from English to Chinese! Did they realize they are living in America and not in China?
Many NYC citizens became angry, expressing, “How dare they? America is an English-speaking country, not Chinese… It makes no sense!” Well only for the Chinese manifesting. But logical it was not!
And you know what our great Mayor did? Yes, you guessed it! He ordered a change of all the signs to Chinese characters. In America, incredible! He was reaffirming that we are a sensitive-multicultural society and I couldn’t agree more. But what incentive did it give the community to learn our language and culture! None at all! Chinatown did become more ‘closed-off’ than ever… No bloody wonder!
That is why, to better the current system of education into a progressive one: the first step is to encourage/motivate students to participate more, have them become an active part of the lesson. This will eventually catch on, I promise! Then, secondly, adapt to the language and cultural-style of the classroom.
For this purpose, it’s important to recognize, “My culture, my way!” Broaden the mind and you’ll overcome the problems of failure and social incompetence! End of lesson.
*Qinglish – system of mixing incorrectly English with Chinese.