Another April Fools' Day

yurenjie

Another April Fools’ Day has come and gone…. Yes, April Fools’ Day is celebrated in China, but in a somewhat different way. In the USA, it seems like pranks are the most popular way of celebrating the holiday, but in China college students just seem to like to fool their classmates. Some of the more common tricks include:

  • Calling up a friend and confessing your love for him/her. A variation of this may be telling a friend that another mutual friend has a secret crush on them.
  • Calling up a friend by cell phone and telling him you have come to visit and are at the school gate, so the friend should come out and meet you immediately.

Notice that I didn’t mention the classic “loose salt shaker top trick” or “whoopee cushion.” It seems that plain old lies are the way to go here (although you can actually buy whoopee cushions here, for cheap!).

I didn’t really do anything for April Fools’ Day. I guess I’m getting old. I didn’t have class that day, so I slept in. I woke up to the sound of an SMS message arriving on my cell phone. It was from a student saying that his class couldn’t have class the next day because they had their “Spring Outing” (a Chinese college freshman tradition; chun you — 春游 — in Chinese). Well, having just woken up, I was in my usual morning state of dopiness. I had no idea what day it was. So I fell for that. Oh well.

Some news for China April 1st was the death of celebrity Leslie Cheung (Zhang Guorong — 张国荣). He was famous for playing gay roles in movies, such as Chen Kaige’s Farewell my Concubine and Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together (Ray‘s favorite). Apparently he was gay in real life, too, and committed suicide over love problems. Sad. At first I thought it was a fake April Fools’ Day “news” story, but it’s real.

Does the world know that there are openly gay stars in China? If you have a class discussion on homosexuality here, these names will come up. I think the gay celebrities are mostly confined to Hong Kong, though. (I’m no authority on Chinese celebrities — I’m lucky if I can keep my Chinese friends’ names straight, much less the celebrities’!) It’s pretty clear, though, that for most of mainland China, being gay is still not OK.

Outfit Streaks

I overheard a comment from a female student to a male student before class last week: “Hey, you finally changed clothes!” I didn’t want to laugh, but I was just totally cracking up inside. It was one of those “totally China” moments.

So what’s the deal? Put simply, Chinese people often wear the same outfit for several days in a row. At first I found it strange, but before long, I was adapting to this aspect of culture. Allow me to demonstrate pictorially:

clothinginchina

Clearly, this is not a cleanliness issue. Americans frequently wear an outfit for one day, then put it away, “clean,” ready to wear again some day in the undefined, not-overly-soon future. Why can’t we just keep wearing the same outift? Cultural programming. If we wear the same outfit for several days in a row, people might think that we don’t actually have a huge wardrobe. People might think we’re poor! Even if we were to have only 5 outfits, we would cycle them meticulously.

But in China you can wear the same thing for several days in a row, and it’s cool. No one will really look down on you for it (although they might comment if you overdo it).

I kinda like this, being free of a cultural chain that, until China, bound me without my knowledge….

Pictures, pictures, pictures…

I’ve really let putting pictures online slide. (Remember those Yunnan photos I’ve been meaning to get online for over a month now?) Well, I finally did a little catching up, and further integrated Racingmix‘s photos with Sinosplice’s. The mirroring continues.

Yunnan Photos are finally online — two pages of them. Story to follow.

ChinaTEFL Linhai Trip Photos from last weekend are also online now.

Check out the photo album page for updated Racingmix mirror links and some Japan picture links as well. I’ll do more work on those pages at a time when I’m less lazy.

Foreigner Protest in Beijing

laowai power protest

Did you hear about this story? “Foreigners in China Stage Small Anti-War Protest” from washingtonpost.com. There are several things about this article I find interesting.

First, the protest consisted of “several dozen foreigners.” In a city of millions of people, only “several dozen foreigners” had the balls to protest a war that pretty much all of China disagrees with?? To be fair, it’s true that the foreigners won’t get in nearly as much trouble (if any) for protesting, whereas any Chinese participants would probably face real repercussions. Still, I think it’s funny, imagining a group of foreigners protesting in Beijing. I wonder if they did it in Chinese or English… Also, it’s kind of funny that the “brief protest” was pretty much over as soon as it began. But still, I admire and support the protesters. It should be done.

Second, the protest was “organized through mobile telephone text messages.” Too funny. Anyone who’s been in Eastern China for very long knows how widespread the phenomenon is (see Wang Jianshuo’s take on it and the Sinosplice poll related to it). So of course foreigners are in on the cell phone texting too. But organizing protests by SMS? I can just imagine someone, all justly fired up over the war, angrily typing in, “5-5-5 3-3 8 1-1-1 7-7-7-7 (LET’S) 7 7-7-7 6-6-6 8 3-3 7-7-7-7 8 (PROTEST)….” You get the picture.

Last, China “has not allowed public anti-war protests for fear of harming ties with the United States.” Wow. I’m impressed by that. I’m not saying it’s good to suppress peaceful protest, obviously, but I appreciate Beijing’s commitment to good relations with the U.S. There are some prudent people in power over here. It’s a stark contrast to what’s passing for leadership on the other side of the world in certain superpower nations.

But I’ll end by saying that I support those protesters in Beijing, even if I find the story a bit comic. And while I’m not happy with the decisions made that put them there, I support the allied troops of the U.N.-defying nations who are now serving their countries on Iraqi soil.

A Semester in Review

I’m here in China to get really good at Mandarin Chinese. Fortunately, I also enjoy teaching English, since I’ve been doing it for going on three years now. I’m really interested in applied linguistics, so to me teaching is more than just a source of income. It’s research. (Warning to the short of attention span: the following long post is going to be solely about teaching English in China.)

At the end of each semester, I always evaluate how the semester went. Did my students learn anything? Did I stimulate their interest as well (in other words, was class interesting)? Are they likely to remember anything I taught them that semester? Did the grades I gave really reflect the increase in their spoken English proficiency?

These are some hard questions, ones that I think many casual backpacker English teacher types don’t give a second thought to. It’s understandable, if they’re only going to be in China for one or two semesters. But I really care about these answers, personally and intellectually. To help me answer these types of questions about my classes, each semester I have my students answer an anonymous questionnaire in class. I use the results when making decisions about how to modify my class for the next semester.

Last semester class grading was mostly discussion-based, although there were only 5 iscussions. Discussions were student-led. Student discussion leaders also had the responsibility of coming up with their own thought-provoking discussion questions.

The following are the questions I asked my students and some of the answers I received (in the students’ own words, mistakes and all).

1. What did we not do enough of in class?
  • watch movies
  • play more games
  • we should have class outside
  • We didn’t talk enough to you!

I was surprised that a lot of students felt that they didn’t have enough direct interaction with me. I strive not to be one of those “spoken English teachers” that just talks the whole class. If the students are to improve their speaking ability, they must do the talking in class. Maybe I overdid it though? It’s the first time I ever got that remark, and I got it from quite a few different students.

More movies and class outside are typical suggestions, but they can only be practically realized (and justified) to a very limited extent.

2. What did we do too much of in class?
  • Laughing
  • We made too much jok
  • I think some of the discussions are very good, but some are meaningless. We can’t improve our Oral English speaking ability by discussions. We learn little things, maybe none.
  • The class is all about discussion, it is boring.

The last two comments are the kind I take seriously. The only problem is, from a linguistic standpoint, very often the students have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. Students who don’t like discussions often propose more one-on-one interaction with me. In a class full of students, however, that’s just not practical. I have to go by the wisdom I learned at UF’s ELI: “divide the class, multiply the talking.” That means they interact with each other more than me. But it gives them more speaking practice.

The complaint about too much discussion is just ludicrous. I think five 30-minute discussions, spread out over 16 weeks of class, hardly qualifies as overdoing it.

3. What did you like about the discussions?
  • They’re always interesting.
  • Great, wonderful, interesting.
  • Through the discussions, some unfamiliar classmates become familiar.
  • The topic is usually very interesting so most of us like it. we learn new and good ideas from others at once our English are improved. It’s helpful.

Here a problem with the questionnaires becomes apparent. The students’ feedback is often completely contradictory! When my ideas are based on sound linguistic principles and legitimate pedagogy, though, I tend to listen more to the positive feedback than the whiners.

4. What did you dislike about the discussions?
  • I dislike the discussions which are boring and tedious.
  • I don’t have enough time to talk with our dear John.
  • We don’t know whether our sentences are correct.
  • For example sex. I think it is not good for us.
  • We are too young to say such sexy topic.

Complaints about class being boring are typical. Many students expect foreign teachers to be singing dancing game-playing clown entertainers (and some of them do fit the bill). Compared to most of their other classes, just about any spoken English class is a nice breath of fresh air for Chinese students, but they still complain.

The sex complaint is an interesting one, because I debated myself whether I should devote a discussion to the topic of sex. It went really well, though.

5. Any other comments?
  • No other comments, the class is much more interesting and funny than other courses.
  • Actually I like your class best. Because it is very interesting. And you are a very good teacher.
  • The atmosphere is too serious espaciouly when we have oral quiz. You shouldn’t be so rigid on the examination and the scores.
  • We should not have examination.
  • You’re an awesome guy. : )
  • I think you are very handsome, also a good teacher.
  • John is a good teacher. warmly and kind-heart. Oral English lesson is active class. But the class time is too short.
  • You are the best teacher and very lively.
  • The class has a little boiling so I want teacher to make it more interesting. Can have class outside and play much.
  • On the whole, John’s classes are interesting and lively, full of excitement and joy. We have been looking forward to Friday and your classes.
  • You are a lively teacher, I like your style. Could you communicate with us after class, We could talk more and discuss. I think that would improve our English level greatly.
  • I can’t understand why you forbade us to speak Chinese you know, sometimes speak Chinese will make thing more comfortable some words we must speak Chinese to express ourselves. It is true that in English class English is the language we should speak, but Chinese is also useful. So I hope you will not forbade us to speak Chinese next term.
  • This course is useful and I like it very much. : )
  • I think the class doesn’t do much to improve my English.
  • Useful English, not useless playing.
  • I love you.

OK, so I never said I couldn’t use my own blog to boost my ego. Hehe… Sometimes students can leave harsh comments, so all the positives provide a nice balance. Again, there’s so much conflicting feedback, but I think doing questionnaires is definitely worthwhile. I highly recommend it to any TEFL teachers who are trying to improve their teaching methods.

Friends and Pics

Wilson

Wilson

In the past I have done a little introductory mug shot page for the English-teaching foreign teachers here at ZUCC. This semester Wilson did it. It’s hosted on his site, but since his site is blocked in China and mine isn’t, it’s also mirrored on my site. Check it out! I’m sure I’ll be mentioning these people on here in the future.

During his time here, Wilson has gotten really imaginative with his photography and web design. I envy his creative eye, his Photoshop skills, his awesome camera. Even if these talents don’t rub off on me, though, at least I can enjoy his results. Don’t miss: Jade Emperor’s Hill [mirrored], Viewing Fish at Flower Pond [mirrored].

I mentioned recently that I’ll be on TV in China March 22nd. Being on TV is a pretty common occurrence for foreigners living in China. Frequent readers/commenters of this blog will be familiar with my friend Ray. He was on TV in Shanghai some months ago when he still worked there. They did a bit of a bio on him. Anyway, he sent me some vidcaps of his 10 minutes of glory, and I think they’re pretty funny, so I’m sharing them. I don’t think he’ll mind everyone having a look at his studly countenance. If he ever put up a site of his own, I’m sure he’d put these pics up.

ray1

“So I want to write a book, right? …”

ray2

(That’s mantou, a kind of Chinese bun.)

ray3

What a fascinating lesson, eh? The students are riveted!

Speaking of commenters on Sinosplice, “Prince Roy,” a rather new regular commenter here, now has his own blog too. Check it.

You gave your life…

You gave your life to become the person you are right now.
Was it worth it?
–Richard Bach

Few quotes get me thinking these days like this one did. It’s easy to blow it off without pondering it, but I found it a very worthwhile rumination.

I found the quote in a blog called imo. Interestingly, two of the four quotes on that page are also on my quotes page. (Not the one above, though.) Good quotes.

Illusions: the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

I became familiar with Richard Bach in high school. I found Jonathan Livingston Seagull rather forgettable, but I loved Illusions: the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Truly high-octane fuel for the imagination.

It’s often said nowadays that where creativity is concerned, China is a huge gaping void. What has China invented lately? Even books like Richard Bach’s seem to echo the philosophies of a China of lore — so distant, but certain as last night’s forgotten dream. Sure, joining the WTO is good times and fun for all, but in modern China, how can even the will of 1.3 billion parched minds revive creativity’s corpse?

Rensheng AB Ju

renshengABju

Rensheng AB Ju

Yeah, I’m not even going to try to translate this one. Rensheng AB Ju is the name of a television show here in Zhejiang. On this show the beginning of a story is told by video to the audience, then stopped, and the watchers are given two choices: A and B. Which should the person take? The three guests (usually of minor fame) are then asked by the host which choice they think is best and why. After that a few guests from the studio audience are asked their opinions. Then the story continues to the next juncture, another A/B choice is presented, and so on. (For the Chinese-inclined, here’s an introduction in Chinese.)

I bring this show up not because I like it (I’ve actually never seen it), but because I was on it. Filmed it last Tuesday. I was a little nervous about being on the show. It was all in Chinese, of course. What if I didn’t follow the story completely, or what if the discussion took a difficult turn? I’d rather not look dumb on TV, if possible. The man on my left was a psychologist (I think) and professor at Zhejiang University, and the woman on my right was an author. My sole qualification was being a foreign teacher in China. The topic was one particular woman’s extra-marital affair.

The show actually went pretty well, I think. I understood pretty much everything, and the host was very easy-going and easy to understand. The psychologist guy busted into some pretty esoteric stuff now and then, dropping all sorts of chengyu, and at those points I was always afraid they would turn to me and ask, “and what do you think about that?!” but that didn’t happen. I talked less than the other two, but that’s pretty understandable. What I did say I communicated well enough.

The show airs on the Zhejiang Satellite TV Station (Zhejiang Dianshitai Weixing Dianshi), Saturday, March 22nd, 9:45pm, and then again Sunday, March 23rd, 11:40am and 3:52pm. This is the fourth time I’ll be on TV in China, I think, and this time instead of chancing into it they came looking for me. Interesting stuff happens to you when you’re here long enough…

浙大第三

我来中国以来一直很想知道在中国大学其中哪些大学最好。最近Chuck的blog有答案。是这样:

1. 清华大学(北京) 2. 北京大学(北京) 3. 浙江大学(杭州) 4. 复旦大学(上海) 5. 华中科技大学(武汉) 6. 南京大学(南京) 7. 武汉大学(武汉) 8. 吉林大学(长春) 9. 上海交通大学(上海) 10. 中山大学(广东)

哇,浙大是第三名!不错。以前我跟我的朋友雷雷讨论过这个问题:浙江大学好还是南京大学好?雷雷总是说在各个方面南京比杭州好,包括大学。我都不理他因为杭州没有他说的那么差劲。我才有办法向他证明在这个方面杭州好。

我觉得有意思的是中国北方人老以为北方比南方有文化。那么为什么在中国最优秀的大学其中北方只有三个呢?我不得不承认北京是有中国最好的两个大学,但我还 以为北方应该有更多的。对这个问题我特别有兴趣因为下个学期我想再当学生,很认真地学中文。到现在我在中国从来没有上过中文课。对我来说好象自学的进步是 有限的,我想再上学的时间到了。所以我要考虑去哪里上中文课比较好呢?我知道北京的大学最好,最有名,那边的普通话最标准。可是我真的不想住在北方,也不 想学北方的口音。还好南方有这么多好大学。

New semester, New music

head like an empty sterile room, somehow I made a mess
like watching newborn babies crack from work-related stress

-Alkaline Trio, “I lied my face off”

hangzhou rain

Well, it’s the beginning of the semester, a fresh start. New students, new teachers, new lesson plans… Somehow it all seems a little “messy” though. I wonder if it’s because of the constant rain. We actually had nice weather today, but that’s a rarity. The other day I accidentally said “rain forecast” instead of “weather forecast.” Hangzhou winters are like this. Lots of time spent indoors. I’m looking forward to the spring…

Lately I can’t stop listening to this song. This one and this one aren’t bad either. I’m not exposed to a lot of new music these days, so when I find something new I like, I’m all over it. I have access to internet radio, but it usually spews the same garbage across the internet as it does across the airwaves at home. I’m happy I found Dashnine Radio. Rarely have I found a station that plays so much stuff I like. Atom and His Package, Screeching Weasel, and The Transplants, all on the same station? I’m there.

[Note: These MP3's will be online for a limited time only, so if the links have gone dead, that's why. To see what music I've got online at any given time, go to www.sinosplice.com/music/.]

Page 158 of 168« First...102030...156157158159160...Last »
Sinosplice and all material found herein © 2002-2014, John Pasden. All rights reserved.
Sinosplice is happily hosted by WebFaction. Design by Dao By Design