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17/04/07 - Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

Ni chi fanle ma
This literally means, “Have you eaten yet?” but is a common form of greeting among older Chinese people. It dates back to recurrent periods of famine in China’s history, but I have used it here just to sound clever.

This week I decided to try a different style of teaching with my oral English classes by making them recite Monty Python’s, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. It was hilarious witnessing up to 50 Chinese students repeating after me, “If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.” I was going to play them Monty Python’s, “I Like Chinese”, but I thought this may be crossing the line.

What does this teach the students? You may ask. Well, I actually thought it was a fairly good oral exercise. I taught them useful new words, such as “grumble”, “absurd” and “terminal”. (Saying that, I also taught them some fairly useless words, such as “chump” and “gristle”.) It was good pronunciation practice, and most importantly we had a lot of fun.

“th”, not “s”

The song was particularly good as many of the lyrics contain the sound “th” in them. Chinese people are very bad at pronouncing “th”. Instead of “th”, they say “s”, so often you’ll hear them say “sankyou” and “I sink”. This meant that the song was an appropriate assignment as words like “things”, “breath” and “nothing” occur frequently.

When I’m not singing songs in class, we work from a text book, which is fairly good, apart from the fact that the accompanying CD, which is required for the listening exercises, is full of clips of people with American accents, speaking American words. This means that after the clip has finished I have to spend the rest of the lesson teaching them the proper way to speak English and telling them that next to the road you have a “pavement”, not a “sidewalk”.

My Stalker

Recently, I have also acquired a stalker. He (yes it’s a he) comes to all of my classes, even though some of them are identical, he came to watch me play basketball, he came to the hairdressers with me and he keeps on asking me if he can come to my apartment when I am “resting”. What’s even more weird is that often his scary mother, who works at BIGC, often follows him following me, if you can follow that. I’m hoping that if I ignore him for long enough, he’ll go away. We’ll see.

In fact, there are far too many students and other Chinese people who want to “make friends” with me and help me with my Chinese. It’s very kind of them but unfortunately there’s a mere 1.3 billion people in this country and I just don’t have time to “make friends’ with them all. A friend of one of my Chinese friends text me the other day and said, “Are you still interested in oral English?” Now this is a silly question. As you all know, I am very interested in oral English. I partake in it at great length. What she was trying to ask was whether I would teach her oral English, to which the answer was, no. I spend all my free time learning Chinese and writing annoyingly long emails.

Basketball Match

In other news, I played in my first basketball match the other day. I was playing on the English department team and sadly we lost, 27-18. Saying that, we were playing the PE department, which I thought was a little unfair. I was a bit rusty on the rules so got penalized quite a few times, but I did manage to score a couple of baskets, one from a free throw. And before you ask, yes I was the tallest person on court.

China Radio International

I have also started working part-time at CRI-English (China Radio International). It was slightly a case of deja vous this week, in that I sent an email to them over the weekend introducing myself, and they called me up at 9am on Monday morning. I then had an interview at 11am that day at their studios and I am now working as a part-time editor for radio and website articles. They want me to work up to three days a week, so I’m not sure quite where sleep is going to fit into my schedule but it’s all good experience.

I’m sorry I haven’t replied to more of your emails individually. I will try and get on top of things later this week. Hope you are all well. I hear the weather in England is very pleasant and I imagine the air is a great deal less polluted than it is here, so lucky you.

I Like Chinese

I will leave you with a quote from Monty Python’s, “I Like Chinese”.

“I like Chinese.
I like Chinese.
They only come up to your knees,
Yet they’re always friendly, and they’re ready to please.”

”I like Chinese.
I like Chinese.
There’s nine hundred million of them in the world today.
You’d better learn to like them; that’s what I say.”
(There’s actually more like 1.3 billion nowadays but this song was written over 30 years ago.)

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