Thursday, June 9, 2011

English corner...posted by Caitlyn

At Xiamen, I started going to this event called "English Corner" every Tuesday and Friday at 8pm, next to the Lu Xun statue. Students (and anyone really) come to practice their English. Milano and Eric went too, and we had three giant crowds surrounding each of us. Well, it was like a dozen people each and others wandering around and in other groups. I had two high school students talk to me about the movie "Inception" and ask how relaxing American college life is—as in going to lots of parties and having little homework. Compared to the stringent Chinese high schools, American colleges are on eternal spring breaks. The same two students (one boy and one girl) tried to tell me some Chinese history and myths after I said I did not know much about China. One I remember was a story about how a man and a really long beard and it fell off and made the world or land. I probably lost something in translation. The girl had also seen a lot of American movies, and we talked about that movie "The Proposal" with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, but neither of us could remember the title at the time. We both thought the movie was funny, though. All the students that talked to me had "English names" (names that they chose or were chosen for them when they began to study English) but I can hardly remember any of them because I talked to so many people.
They all seemed to be very knowledgeable about the politics and history of the United States, often more so than Americans I know. This one guy was asked me, "New York is blue state, yes?" and this other guy watched the show "Boston Legal" and knew terms like civil court, criminal court, attorney, prosecution, defendant, and plaintiff. He asked very intelligent questions about juries, judges, and trial procedure. I also was asked if I thought Republicans and Democrats were hypocritical, because most Republicans are pro-life but pro-death penalty and most Democrats are pro-choice but anti-death penalty. One really wanted to know where Minnesota was (geographically speaking) because he had a teacher that lived there. And they also wanted to know why my city was named Buffalo but we have no buffalo (it’s a good point). Then we were talking about the US economy, the housing bubble, what newspapers I read ("New York Times or Washington Post"?), the yuan-dollar exchange rate, illegal immigration (in the US), Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Bush, Obama, books, Christianity, conservatives, liberals...I’m usually there for a good 3 hours, 8pm-11pm. Some people would have to leave every hour but then others would show up. The Boston Legal guy (William, I think his name was) had great English and he also spoke French, I found out, when his friend from France that worked in the Xiamen physics department showed up.
Actually, most of them had pretty good English, even the high school students. I told them it was impressive that they spoke so well because English and Chinese have very little in common, and my Chinese is terrible. Apparently they start learning English in kindergarten. I said maybe we (Americans) should all have to learn Chinese too so it is fair. They thought that was funny. This one older man who came said he doesn't think it's worth it to make ALL Chinese students learn English, because many of them don't end up needing it for their work and don't bother practicing anymore and forget it. I said more Americans should learn other languages but they get lazy because of the "Everyone speaks/should speak English" attitude. They agreed with that, especially the French guy.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry -- I neglected to credit Caitlyn as the author of this excellent post. I have been using first names only for internet privacy, since this is a public blog.
    --Ann (Dr. Forest's wife and blog moderator)