English corner

15 10 2010

Yesterday night I participated at a very nice activity at the University of Hefei, organized by the same student union that took me to the social activity earlier. The students from the Foreign Language department of Hefei University have set up one night per week a great chance for freshmen and not only to meet together and with foreigners or English teachers, in order to practice English.

In China, as in Italy, for example, at least when I was a young student, the main problem is that even studying English for many years, people never really have a chance to practice it. Just reading and writing, but never talking! For me was the same (I know now the new generations are actually much better, they have much more chances than me!). I had great English marks at school, but the first time I really had to speak English, during InterRail (my 3rd year of University!!), I felt like a child speaking for the first time! I always say that I learned real spoken English during my first years in Norway (1995-1996!).

So yesterday I found myself in a classroom filled by maybe 50 (!) Chinese students, mainly freshmen, mainly girls (90%), probably in the largest seeing and having a chance to chat with a foreigner for the first time.. So funny!!

Even with the best intentions to make them speaking, fight the scare and shy feeling of using English for real, at the end I spoke almost for 2 hours. We split them up in smaller groups and in each group there was one of the advanced language student trying to make them speak English about some topics (“College life” was the starting theme). Then I was going from group to group and talk with them, trying to make all speak a little.

So funny that at the group divisions there were maybe 4 groups of only girls, 1 mixed and 1 only boys! So I went to the boys and forced them to join the other groups with only girls!

Just before that, I briefly introduced myself.. and one of the boys shout at me that I was very handsome!! 😉 So I said thanks but I prefer to hear from girls.. and all the girls together told me the same!! 😀 That’s what I call a good start!

After that, every time I was joining a group, they all wanted to take pictures of me with their phone, or pictures with me! I hope to get some of these pics! 🙂 Without my stolen little crappy camera I feel a little naked.. something is missing!

The evening went well, I ended with little voice, but I hope next time I can join them, they will feel less shy and try to speak more!

FUNNY THING OF THE DAY – Ok, maybe not that funny! 3 awkward moments, one definitively my fault!! Many people asked me which countries I had visited. The first time they did I made a big mistake. Talking about the countries in Asia, I said “China, Taiwan and Japan”.. and a little girl got extremely serious (only her, thank god!) and reminded me that Taiwan is a part of China.. uuhhhh.. hot topic!!! To be always avoided!!! I apologized and changed topic extremely fast! Good she was not angry with poor laowai 😉 The other 2 strange moments came from questions I received, topic a bit too complex to discuss with people with an extremely basic English: one asked me about my religious belief and another one asked my position in the dispute of Diàoyútái islands, 钓鱼台群岛, since I said I liked both Japan and China.. another political hot topic not to be touched!! Besides I know very little about this argument!! I admit I was surprised of such questions! The common questions where about me, Italy and.. if I had a girlfriend or not!

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3 responses

15 10 2010
Svein

He-he-he 😉

Have fun! 😉

svein

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15 10 2010
Vittorio

So basically you can talk about weather, football and nothing more.
It’s like Norway, but with asian people 🙂
Ciao

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15 10 2010
Henriette

I experienced some of the same issues when I visited China in 07 and 08. Always people stopping to talk to me, eager to test out their english. Very charming, but also a little bit overwhelming from time to time, as they tend to be a tad bit more personal in their questions than we are used to in Norway.

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