English Center Updates
The English Center volunteers were becoming frustrated.
Last semester, those who came to the English Center rarely checked out books, spoke in English or seemed to take advantage of the language opportunity set before them. Instead, they silently watched DVD movies on the Center’s TV. Sometimes, they put on the Chinese subtitles and didn’t even bother following English captions.
This semester, things changed.
After a meeting, the volunteers changed the schedule of the English Center. Every day would be a different activity geared toward helping visitors use their language ability. The new format would be:
Monday – Game Day
Tuesday – Movie Day
Wednesday – Storytelling (reading aloud books or free talk)
Thursday – Free Talk on Assigned Subjects
Friday – Movie Day
So this semester, we’ve had a change which has resulted in a different kind of environment for our English learners.
To support the Center’s new move, I’ve been visiting 3 to 4 times a week during their hours (4 – 6 p.m.) to help get things rolling. Since there weren’t any games, I donated 3 Scrabble games, 2 Boggle games and 1 deck of Uno cards. These, by the way, were sent to me by UMW units a few years ago. I’ve been holding onto them for just the right place to put them.
Our English Center was it.
After teaching the volunteers how to play all three, they now are able to teach newcomers who show up and are looking for something other than movies to watch.
Although the movie crowd wasn’t very happy, they still have 2 days to enjoy their films. The rest of us can enjoy some quality language time doing other things.
So far, the volunteers think it’s a successful venture and will continue to the end of the semester.
An Evening of Patriotic Singing
May 1st marked the country’s Labor Day, which brought with it a holiday on Monday. In honor of the occasion, the Student Union decided to host a choral contest for the entire school. Every class could participate with the first song being an old Communist gung-ho favorite and the second being any patriotic number of choice.
Elimination rounds took place for 6 weeks with the finals held last Friday evening, the day before the national holiday.
Out of the 15 classes chosen, I’m proud to say our Foreign Language Department had 7 choirs, one being the Thai language majors and the rest being English students from among the 1st and 2nd year students. Other participants were from the PE, Chinese and Management majors.
Judges were those from outside the school to make the event fair. Leaders from our Chongzuo school were invited to watch, including Party Secretary Li.
Attending the Contest: Moments of “Ouch!”
With nothing else to do on a Friday night, I went to listen to the choirs and show support for our English majors. Vice-dean Liang Ling and I sat together for the entire 2 ½ hour performance.
We certainly enjoyed the grand show although, vouching for myself, often-times not the singing.
Chinese equate happiness with loudness. The louder you are, the happier you are, and this certainly carries over to Chinese choirs. Even the TV professionals belt out songs with great gusto and enthusiasm with little attention paid to musical quality. No dynamics. No parts. No variations. Just one, loud, in-unison, shouting “love-the-motherland, fight-for-victory, never-give-up” sentimentality.
For our own choral contest, it was pretty much the same idea.
Notes were flat. Melodies were lost. Lyrics were screamed.
The loudspeakers added even more to the earsplitting numbers that deafened us at times. The microphones picked up every little wail and screech that took place from our soloists.
And, yes, there were many screeching soloists. (Too many.)
A Definite Love-of-Country Atmosphere
Despite what seems to be a horrific description of the night, it was the enthusiasm and excitement from the students performing that gave the night its star quality shine.
Everyone had worked so hard, practicing day and night for weeks to get this far. They had perfected their movements, added signs and banners to wave at appropriate moments, rented outfits or had them made, and had taken the stage with pride, honor and a true love-of-country spirit.
The audience, too, was 100% behind their classmates. Every choir member, every song, every choreographed movement was cheered and applauded.
Just sitting in the midst of it all, sharing comments with my colleague, Liang Ling, gave me a feeling of belonging to a very strong-knit community.
So what if no one was of Tabernacle Choir caliber. It was just fun to share in the moment.
From Longzhou, here’s wishing you Ping An (peace) for your May Day!