Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I tried two different topics with my classes this week. After my Tuesday class I decided not to continue using the second topic. According to the news here, an increasing number of students feel that a master's degree isn't worthwhile. I wanted to see if my students were satisfied with the educational value of the degree that they had recently begun. I think I made them depressed with the news of other students around China. I tried to explain to them that what matters is that they take the opportunities that they are provided and use them to their advantage.

One of the questions I asked was, "How many classes do you take and how many of those classes do you think will be useful for the future?" The response was that they take 16 classes and only three would be useful. (I'm not entirely sure if they understood my question because 16 classes seems like far too many to take in one semester. I know they have a lot of classes, but that number sounds too high.)

My other topic for the week was much more fun. I decided to find out how much my students know about the U.S. A big reason for this is that I have heard many misconceptions from people in China (i.e. everyone owns a gun, everyone celebrates Christmas, all Americans are rich). I tried explaining that while the exchange rate of Renminbi to dollars is about 7.5 to 1, the standard of living is far different. The standard of living is closer to 2 to 1 (for every dollar I spend in the U.S. I could spend 2RMB here). J. gave me a great example that he's used: a bottle of Coke was about $1.50 for him at home; it costs about 3RMB here. That example did work well in class.

On language: (1) At the end of class today, a student came up to explain why some students were absent. Unfortunately, he forgot what language to use and began speaking quickly in Chinese--I understood part of it, but the important vocabulary was beyond my comprehension. He noticed my confusion and tried to think of how to say it in English. (2) The cafeteria was out of the good noodles today and the rest of the food has no labels and it's too noisy to ask "What's this?" for every dish. I found a little shop across the street with an English-speaking owner. He was very nice and almost too helpful. For a simple meal, I might start going there for a little variety at lunch. (3) From playing with for vocabulary, I realized how educational The Simpsons really is. The word was "zebu" and the only other time I've seen that word was on an early episode in which Bart saves Mr. Burns' life and the family is rewarded with a giant Omec Indian head.

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