Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Great Leap Go Straight One Block

Oh China, you've tried a bunch of crazy shit in the past seventy years. So many naively ambitious projects that end up, you know, causing mass famine. I don't reckon for a second that you're latest unrealistic goal will kill anyone, but it will certainly make life awkward.

China is trying to get 30% of all Chinese to speak English in time for the Olympics.

This means that there are a thousand flowers of EFL teachers blooming in China. But the only problem is that the Asian style of learning language, often focused on rote repetition, can be a poor way of teaching English. Check out this article from the Times about the trials of teaching English in China to see what I'm talking about. It's similar in Korea, but without the pervasive nationalism.

I am lucky. When I teach I'm able to give my students activities where they actually use English, where they talk with each other, construct sentences, and struggle to impart some sort of English-language meaning. But they also have to memorize stacks of semi-obscure vocabulary every week (one particularly improbable vocab word--for a middle school girl--was child restraining belt). English is not only a subject to study so that one may speak with foreigners and participate in the global economy, it is an activity for itself often, an abstract mark of success counted by TOFEL scores, grades, and proficiency tests. But then the kids who communicate with me the best, they're often not the kids with the best English, they're the kids who are the bravest, the most willing to make a mistake. So I want to do two things when I teach. I want to help them construct proper sentences telling me how they're feeling and how to find the post office; but I also want them to test their bravery.

1 comment:

Three-Legs Alice said...

What a strange order from a government!!!
30% of 2 billion is... well I dunno the number but it's definitely more than half a billion.
More than half a billion people are expected to know English by the time the Olympics start?
Lol.