Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Teaching conversational English in ACCESS, Boston Chinatown

I am now currently teaching conversational English to a group of Chinese immigrants, at American Chinese Christian Educational & Social Services Inc. (ACCESS), in Boston Chinatown in the morning. It is through working in this organization that I know more about the Chinese immigrants, the Chinese community in America, the American Chinese, and the local Chinese churches in Boston. I have been teaching here since the end of May and will be teaching till mid-August.

I had to petition with my school's foreign student office in order to convince the representative officer that this is ministry is related to my degree, before she could give me an official approval to teach the Chinese immigrants. I have been teaching them for six weeks, and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching them. I got to know more about American pronunciation, some of the terms used in China, as well as my own identity. I used to think that my native dialect is Hokkien which I thought means "福建话"。It is from my students that I realize Fujian province is so big, and when I use the term "福建话", it is too vague. To be more precise, my dialect is "闽南语", which I can hardly speak now. Currently, I have fifteen students, most are from Fujian province, and they speak mainly Foo Chow and Mandarin (and a little bit of English now). Their ages range from 20 to 49. Majority have no English background, but all of them are very hardworking and they are trying their best to survive well in the US.

Compared to teaching secondary school students back in Singapore, I do not have to deal with any discipline problem as all of them are adults. I could apply some of the pedagogy I learned in Singapore. It is easier to relate to them, and to engage them in a two-way interaction. It is important for one to teach from the heart, in Chinese "用心来教"。 I have to provide a Chinese translation for almost all the new terms I taught them. Some of the students have been very helpful in assisting me to write some of the Chinese characters I have forgotten. It is through this process that I discovered some of the terms I used in Singapore are used differently in China. For e.g. in S'pore, cinema (in the US, it is called movie theater) is known as "戏院"。 But in China, "戏院" could mean opera house. The more precise term should be "电影院"。In other words, not only are they learning from me, I am also learning from them. In fact, we are teaching each other.

It has been a very fruitful experience teaching them in the last six weeks. There were times that my lessons did not go as well as planned. One of them was an outdoor activity when I sent them to the neighborhood stores to identify the name and address of the store, and the items they could purchase within ten dollars from the store. In the end, I spent more time teaching them new words on grocery items. I have learned from my mistake ever since.

This is one of the presentations where I was a facilitator.

Recently, I have incorporated classic English songs into the lesson. I tried finding an appropriate translation for "What a wonderful world" on the Internet, but in the end, I have to do some of the translation myself.

Extract from "What a wonderful world"
(Louis Armstrong) 何等美妙的世界
I hear babies crying, I watch them grow 我听见婴儿们哭泣, 我看着他们长大
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know 他们学的会比我所懂得更多
And I think to myself what a wonderful world 我认为这是何等美妙的世界
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world. 真的,我认为这是何等美妙的世界

I can't translate the lyrics literally, or it loses the meaning in Chinese language. I realized the difficulties in translation. I don't think I translated well, but I hope my students will understand the meaning of the song after my explanation.

I have also met other great teachers and a wonderful coordinator here. Some of them have taught me how to add more varieties to the lesson. It is been a pleasure and privilege to work with them, and I thank God for giving me this form of exposure.

This is a photo taken together while we were on a trip to Boston Harbor Islands with our students. From left to right: me, Austin, Joanna, and Anne (our coordinator).

Not forgetting Sue, who is our ACCESS administrator. She is efficient, and a terrific sister-in-Christ. She is the one who shared with me more about the Chinese community in Boston.

1 comment:

david santos said...

I loved this blog.
Happy week.