I’ll Take One Order of Mice Please!

For  the ESL courses at our school, we generally use textbooks that are specifically made for English language learners. However, there is one exception- our reading textbook, and it has proven to be hilarious on some days for us.

In reading class yesterday, we were doing an activity in which we needed to understand how topics are related so that we can better comprehend how paragraphs are organized. The activity asked us to mark out the word that does not belong in the group and then to say a very specific topic in which all the words could belong.

The words were cows, sheep, pigs, mice, goats, and chickens. The students should have marked out the word mice and the topic was “farm animals that are kept for meat.” My Chinese student thought this was a very poor question, because, in fact, some Chinese people do eat mice, especially in Guangzhou province. We probably laughed for ten minutes about this. So, all textbooks are not created equal. 😉 

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Russian Police Officers Are Trying to “Get Lucky”

Like many people, I was interested to watch the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The opening ceremony for the winter Olympics is usually not as grand as the one for the summer Olympics, but Russia really wanted to try and outdo its buddy, China. I think they put on a high-quality performance, which highlighted Russia’s contribution to dance, literature, and music. It was strange at times, but I think, overall, it stayed pretty classy with the ballet and the opera. However, they didn’t show one very, um, interesting performance on television here in the US. There was a choir of Russian police officers who sang Daft Punk featuring Pharrell’s hit from the summer “Get Lucky”. Not only is the performance very awkward, but the song choice is very awkward, in my opinion. And as an ESL teacher, I have a theory on it. They chose an upbeat song to try and show Russia’s fun, carefree side. However, they really have no idea what the song is about! Most non-native English speakers know the word “lucky”. In fact, luck is often talked more about in countries outside the US, because people strongly believe in luck.So, perhaps the Russians were thinking this was a fun song about luck. Maybe they thought this song would bring luck to their Olympic athletes. Here are the lyrics to the chorus of the song:

We’re up all night ’til the sun
We’re up all night to get some
We’re up all night for good fun
We’re up all night to get lucky

This song is talking about a hook-up, about sex! I am almost completely sure that the Russians don’t realize this. They don’t know that “getting some” and “getting lucky” are synonymous with casual sex. How could you know these idioms unless you’ve learned them before? I highly doubt that the Russians would want their country to be known for police officers singing about having sex as they present themselves to the world during the opening ceremony. It also surprised me because the Russians are so conservative about many things, sex and homosexuality being just a few of them. Maybe this is something only an ESL teacher would think of; I don’t know.

Here is the video:

It’s strange to watch. Some members of the choir look like they were forced at gunpoint to sing this song. And there are some parts that I can’t quite understand what they’re saying. What are your thoughts on the performance? Are you a non-native English speaker who didn’t know what “get lucky” or “get some” really meant? If you’re an ESL teacher, do you think your students would know?I don’t think most of mine would. Oh well, I hope those police officers get lucky from being so famous for their performance! Share this post with those who you’d like to see this fun performance!

The Great Language Game

A travel site I follow on Facebook shared a link to a great game. It plays someone speaking in a certain language, and you choose what language it is from 3 or 4 choices. While I wouldn’t say I’m good at learning languages, I definitely have an ear for languages. I can usually tell the difference between Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean. I can tell if a language is from Eastern rather than Western Europe. I can figure out that a language being spoken is Middle Eastern. It’s actually kind of strange. Anyway, if you like languages, culture, or travel, give this game a try by

clicking here.

I got a score of 900 on my first try! I’m kinda proud of myself if I do say so. Play the game, and comment with your score. Share this post with others who you want to challenge to this game.

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English Proficiency in the US

“Everyone that lives in the US should learn English or get kicked out!”

Have you ever heard someone say that, or have you maybe even said it yourself? There are many people that are residing in the US that self-report not speaking English well.

9% of the population in fact. 

The Migration Policy Institute just released a new study that determined that 9% of the population of the US is not proficient in English. It was at 6% in 1990.

9% of the US population is about 25.3 million people, which puts it into perspective a bit more.

63% of these LEP (limited English proficient) are Latino, and 20% are Asian. 13% are non-Latino white, and 3% are black.

About half of these LEPs live in California, Texas, and New York, which have always had large numbers of immigrants. In fact, 1 in 5 people in California have limited proficiency in English, which puts California at having 27% of the LEP population. And, of course, larger cities have larger populations of non-proficient speakers. Cities such as DC, Miami, and Chicago have large populations of LEPs.

Limited English Proficient Population

limited English proficiency states

While many LEPs are foreign born, about 19% were actually born in the US.  That leaves 81% that are foreign born.

Separately, there are an additional 2.8 million LEPs in Puerto Rico, which is part of the US.  (When I visited Puerto Rico, I was surprised that hardly anyone spoke English fluently since I had read that both English and Spanish are the official languages there.)

Does not being able to speak English while living in America hurt LEPs? This study does show that they are more likely to be living in poverty or be doing menial jobs. Many LEPs work in construction, transportation, or the service industry. They are less likely to hold college degrees. Is it difficult to live their day-to-day lives? I am sure it is. Many LEPs have children that are proficient in English from going to school, and their children must help them do simple tasks, like pay bills. It is taxing on the parents and the children.

However, not everyone has the time or the opportunity to learn English. If you’re working 60 hours a week, it’s very difficult to squeeze in time to learn English. Additionally, many people don’t know how to go about learning. Some don’t realize there are many free classes to help them learn English. And another major reason is that learning English can be intimidating. It’s hard to admit that you don’t know the language, and then go to a class and feel like a toddler while learning the basics. (I can relate to that while living in China and trying to learn Chinese!)

This study goes to show that there is a definite need for qualified ESL teachers. There is also a need for volunteers to teach English. There are so many organizations with which one can volunteer to do this. They will give you basic training, but the teaching will be simple, and any native English speaker would be able to do this easily. One example is Pro-Literacy America.

So instead of getting angry when people can’t speak English,  think about what you can do to help. Also, be considerate of their circumstances. It may very well be their first day in the US, or they may be taking classes but their ability level is still not very good yet.  Put yourself in their shoes, and be considerate of their feelings and situation.

I hate when people say that everyone in the US should know English, “because English is the official language goshdarnit!”  If you’d do your research you’d know that the US does not actually have an official language. So, chew on that little tidbit for a while.

I hope this post was informative. I got my information (and the images) from this website. So check it out if you’d like to read more if you’re a language/English/teaching nerd like me.   :]  And please help me out and  share on your social media (Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.) if you enjoyed this post.

Eastern vs. Western Learning and Education

I’ve had a few requests to share what I do to help train teachers to go to China. This is my 5th year helping with this training. It’s the program that I went to China with way back in 2006. They help teachers find jobs in China and train them to go. The training includes things like the history and culture of China, information on living in China, and teaching in China. To be a teacher in China, you need a bachelor’s degree in any subject area. It doesn’t have to be in education. However, in the last few years, many provinces in China are starting to require either a teaching background, teaching experience, or a TEFL certificate. Therefore, we now require all our teachers to go through some sort of online TEFL training that China will recognize.

So, my job at orientation is to give them detailed information on teaching ESL, and, more specifically, teaching English in China. I do four sessions that are about an hour each.

In the first session I teach, I try to help the teachers understand the different mentality between the east and west when it comes to teaching, learning, and education. The difference is quite vast!

For example, the concept of the teacher is extremely different between the East and the West. In America and Europe, the teacher is more of a facilitator. The teacher leads a discussion, as opposed to dominating it.  In opposition, in Asia, the teacher is “the sage on the stage”. The teacher is the authority on everything and shouldn’t be questioned. That was such a strange concept to me as an American teaching in China. I could literally write the word “kat” on the board and no one would dare correct me.

Americans are very individualistic as a whole. We focus more on me, me, me. In the educational world, this translates to being very competitive in the classroom. In the Eastern world, students are more group-oriented. They work together more and help each other more often. This also translates to more cheating, because they feel the need to help their classmates.

In China, students are most often respectful and polite in the classroom. Students are eager to please the teacher. As we know, Americans are like this when they are very young, but, usually, after elementary school, this sadly disappears.

In the West, students are taught to think outside the box, to do their own thinking, and to challenge existing ideas. Whereas, in the East, students usually memorize, usually take official answers without questioning them, and have trouble being creative in the classroom.

These are just a few of the differences in learning and education between the East and the West. If you plan to go to Asia to teach, knowing these differences is extremely essential. You might try a teaching method or a way of managing your classroom and it just doesn’t work and you don’t get why. Culture affects learning. Expectations affect learning. Learn these differences before you go and teach. These concepts are also helpful even if you teach in the US and have Asian students in your classroom.

More teacher training to come!

Is Bahrain Even a Real Place?

“You don’t know how much you know until you know how much you don’t know.”

Isn’t this such a true statement? Every once in a while I’ll hear something and think-how did I not know this before now? I hate when I hear news about a country that I’ve never even heard of. Like Bahrain in the Middle East. I just discovered this place a few months ago! I’m not sure why, but I really want to know the names of all the countries in the world and where they’re located. I’ve practiced it a little, but I need to do more. The European countries and the African countries are the most difficult! I pretty much have Asia mastered, even all the “Stan” countries. (Try not to be too impressed.)

I remember in Mrs. Lawless’ 3rd grade class we competed to see who knew more state capitals. I used to kick tail in the game Around the World! Maybe I just need to play around the world with country names and locations. Anybody up for that? No? Hmph. Ok.

Don’t get mad at me if you waste an hour or two on Sporcle , but it’s a fun site that can show you how little you really know. I suggest playing the one about the countries of the world of course. I got 99/195. Wow. Only 51%. Hmmm… I still think I actually got a lot though! Play and let me know how many you get. And DON’T CHEAT! Cheaters never win, Revelation 21:8, nice guys don’t really finish last, and all that jazz. Here’s the link. Let me know how you do.

http://www.sporcle.com/games/world.php