Friday, August 15, 2008

End of the Term, No Exploing

I came across a blog today which shows that good writers can have a successful blog. I thought being in China might compensate from any good writing skills I haven't acquired yet, but maybe I should start putting up cute pictures of kids. Or use CAPITALIZATION or cuss words.

I did teach my Koreans some bad words yesterday. You have to start at low-level words because their vocabulary isn't good enough to work on words that they might only have an opportunity to say once in their lives. They've already mastered "crap." I did find it interesting that when I said I was willing to trade bad words in English for any bad words they knew in Chinese, the two boys who are bored out of their minds by English scrambled for paper and a pencil. The most studious girl sat there with her head in her arms

Speaking of my Koreans' progress, I brought home the essay Sky (a boy) wrote in class today. We've been reading Harry Potter, and today we read the first scene in the third book where the students encounter boggarts. Boggarts, as you'll remember, are the monsters that take the shape of whatever you fear most and are only destroyed by laughter. The assignment was to pretend that they saw a boggart.

Sky writes: I'm scared of teddy bears. I'm a president, but I scaring of teddy bears. so students laugh at me. So my boggart is teddy bears. It is cute. so I sayd, "It is cute!!!" So It exploed.

And yet, with several weeks down and only one more lesson to go, I think I've helped them make progress. I've tried to convince them that the past, present, and future tense are not the same; that nouns need qualifiers; that sentences generally consist of more than three words and lots of pointing; that verbs are important; that "He is 155 cm height" is not a proper sentence; that "Me, too" should be "Me, neither" if you're concurring with a negative statement; and that "died" is not transitive.

I had my last day of class today. I attended reading class, because it was the last day and I still have that elementary school urge to think that my attendance will affect my final grade. It was a waste of time.

But I've made it to the end of the term, and haven't exploded. China can still work me over when it wants to, as my most recent trip to the Olympics shows, but I've survived. And here's an icing-on-the-cake story.

When I was younger, my mom would occasionally let stories about learning Chinese slip out. One time she was trying to tell me about how the Chinese have a proverb for almost any situation you can imagine. I asked for an example, and she told me the only one she remembered. "A poor man walks by a bakery every morning and lingers to smell the great aroma of the bread baking. The shopkeeper gets mad at the poor man for enjoying something he didn't pay for, and starts to demand payment. When wise Asanti gets there, the baker explains the situation and says he wants 10 kuai for all the smells the man has gotten as his expense. Asanti says that that sounds reasonable, but the poor man pleads that he doesn't have the money. "No problem," Asanti says. "I happen to have a whole purse full of money here." When the baker sees the pouch, he gets really excited. Asanti jingles the coins. "The sound of money buys the smell of bread," he says, putting the pouch back in his pocket and walking away with the poor man.

I'm bracing myself this morning for reading class, when what do I see? This same story. The story that represented Chinese to me when I was seven is the last thing I study before leaving the country. Isn't that cool?

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