At the movies, Guizhou Normal English Class

 Movies of Autumn 2013

The following movies were shown to the Freshmen of the Guizhou Normal HND (Higher National Degree) program . The Freshmen are all about 19 or 20 years old, in the first year at the university.

1)      Appolo 13
2)      Rocky
3)      Doctor Strangelove
4)      The Duchess
5)      Moneyball
6)      How to Train your Dragon
7)      Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
8)      Hunt for Red October
9)      Enemy at the Gates
10)    Casablanca
11)    Rain Man
12)    Startrek
13)    The King’s Speech
14)    The Way of the Peaceful Warrior
15)    VanHelsink
16)    Blues Brothers
17)    Bee Movie
18)       Midnight Run

I am an English teacher of Guizhou Normal, I have been directed to train students in oral English.  I take to mean, teaching students to use the language in oral communication. I am also charged with teaching the students about western culture, which I take to mean, American culture.  I say American culture because I am an American and probably am best qualified to teach American culture, rather than the culture of England or the culture of East India  etc.  Indeed English is a worldwide language.

Two problems which seem endemic in many Chinese students of English is that the language isn’t used for communication and it is taught primarily in Chinese, by Chinese teachers.  Further, the culture of English speaking people is not well known in China. I have approximately six hours a week per Freshman student within which to handle this problem.

The above isn’t entirely true.  Most generalizations aren’t.  In fact, American culture is making extensive inroads in  the Chinese youth. If you believe that the internet,  rap music, basketball and computer games are all products of American culture, (as I do) then the youth of China are already well on the way to being indoctrinated, without any formal educational impetus. Young people of China are also  heavy into watching videos, which they download from the internet, at no charge. Videos are a powerful educational tool.  “Everybody loves Raymond” and “Friends” are quite popular, as well as war movies, vampire movies, and anything to do with zombies.

The big problem for an oral English teacher is getting students to talk in English.  You can’t go very far before you realize that the available texts are not very interesting and young people don’t have a lot of life experience. If you only have a limited life experience, like many 19 and 20 year olds, what is there to talk about in class?  That is why, in addition to drilling vocabulary through student composition of sentences, I use movies.  English language movies, with Chinese sub-captions are purely oral English, and if the movie is interesting enough, students are happy to try to talk about them in English.

I have an A class and a B class, segregated by prior testing. I meet with each class twice a week, for two hours.  That is four hours per student per week of oral English.  I also require students to attend a Monday night movie.  We talk about the movies in the classes during the week, and students are encouraged to use English during these discussions, but not required.  If somebody has something interesting to contribute to the discussion, but their English isn’t strong enough, I ask them to speak Chinese, and then we spend significant class time translating what they say. This may sound weird, but it gives the better students some extra practice, and I am also trying to buck up student self esteem. What students think is important. Before students can learn to speak out, they must first learn to speak up. What they have to say, what they think, and how they feel are all important.

Well that describes a little more about what I am doing over in China. I will try to make another post for the cultural issues which have been discussed. With a few exceptions, these issues are pretty universal between cultures.