Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wha i yo nay?

Teaching English to a big class of Chinese kids can have its challenges. Since they are taught four days a week by a Chinese person there is a wild discrepancy in pronunciation. You walk around a classroom of 35-50 kids saying “One, two, three, four, five”. From the kids who have a clue, you will get “One, two, three, four, five,” . From most you get, “One, toh, flee, foh, fie”, Maybe a third of the kids will be going “uh, oh, ee, uh, uh”. The future ditch diggers are looking out the window. There have been some shortfalls in their previous lessons. Much to my surprise, a couple of the classes have been allowed to run amok for the year, and discipline seems as scarce as snow flakes.
Now most of the classes are great. They are motivated and well taught. I am able to teach pronunciation along with actual lessons. But there still is that problem of how to teach each kid “th”, “br”, “s”, “r”, and a host of other vowel combinations. They also love to drop the last vowel. “Wha i yo nay?” instead of “what is your name?”. NAMUH, NAMUH, NAMUH, NAMUH! For five minutes. Then, ““Wha i yo nay?” The teachers are often teaching them this! Buddha help me.
Cantonese is the local language here. However, the government requires Mandarin to be the official language and it is taught from the start and used as the language in the schools, TV, movies, and all other media. All younger people speak it. My assistants are from the North and are native Mandarin speakers. Cantonese also lacks certain vowels, so my assistants say that the locals have their own pronunciations of Mandarin, too.
Fortunately, there are kids who do get it, work hard at doing things right and will be the movers and shakers of tomorrow. Just like Amelica!

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