Keats Language School, Kunming China
Written September 8, 2011
I imagine my teacher, MW, will be thankful to have a new student after I leave just so she can do something different. I didn’t want any new material the last week other than the odd word or phrase and, of course, more food vocabulary. Each day we reviewed one of the previous week’s themes – following street directions, ordering in restaurants, buying fruit and vegetables, buying bus and train tickets and making hotel reservations. MW wrote and performed more dialogs recombining previous words and phrases after which we practiced more role play scenarios. This alone doesn’t take that much time. You can only rehearse the same situation so many times in one class, giving us plenty of time to chat about what ever I think I can say in Chinese. This is one of the drawbacks to one-one instruction. Having other students in the class would add variety to the simple conversations, allowing for more repetition of the same situations without becoming tedious.
For a little variety MW brought in a child’s supermarket shopping game with about 50 small pieces representing various food products. I had to first identify the items (not an easy task as some items, such as specialty cakes, were uniquely Chinese) and then place it in the appropriate department. After all the items were properly categorized, we played store. I bought various items, asking general questions and the price. Having the props made the role play scenarios a little more interesting.
MW also brought in some Beijing produced conversation videos for me to watch, each containing short scenes of foreign students in Beijing doing different tasks in Chinese. She picked scenes that were related to topics I had been studying, for which there weren’t too many options – students asking for directions, taking the bus, buying a train ticket and buying fruit. Although the language used was relatively simple, they spoke fast and I had to listen to them several times before I could follow the conversation. Overall a good listening activity that I wish the school had more of on a greater variety of useful topics.
On Wednesday we went back to the food court area downtown and practiced reading more menus. We sat in one empty restaurant at 10:30 in the morning and read through the menu. (I went back that night and had dinner.) MW took notes on the new vocabulary which we later reviewed in class. The specialties section was challenging, but once we got to the regular menu of cold and hot dishes I recognized more than I didn’t.
Took another spin through the food court to look at the various meats, vegetables and insects on display. Do I really want to eat a bug? According to a recent New Yorker article, insects are the up and coming protein. But staring at the trays of caterpillar chrysalis, crickets, grasshoppers and other things, I just don’t think I’m there yet.