Earlier this year I volunteered at an “English Clinic” at my school. The
premise was to let students practice English with fluent speakers. Read:
they don’t really want to practice English.
First day in, only one student there. Two of my friends were there so we
together helped her correcting her written homework. Half way in I still
spoke English with her but I sensed something wrong. As it turned out,
she barely understood what I was saying, so I resorted to speaking to
her in her native language. Her face was of surprises with a capital s.
In her mind, it seemed like it is not possible for an Asian-looking
person to speak fluent English and her language.
Sitting in the “clinic” reading books alone was not out of ordinary
because the only instance students will come to you is when their
teachers forced them to. They wanted their students to take turn talking
to us. No, they really don’t want to talk to us in English.
When I correct someone’s pronunciation, their friends nearby would mock
them, saying what was meant to be a funny remark but actually hurtful.
When I took turns conversing a scripted conversation from their lessons,
they didn’t register a word I was saying. They just kept speaking their
parts and paused to signal for me to speak until the end of the script.
At the end of their course, they had to interview any foreigner and ask
them a few questions and video tape it. I was interviewed around six
times even though I am not a foreigner. I look foreign but I was born
and bred here. The best part? They knew I speak their language. They
just wanted to get it over with their class. And the questions?
- What is your name?
- Why do you study in [here]?
- What is your favorite food?
- What is your favorite sports?
- What do you think about the [local] people?
No, they didn’t understand a word I was saying. They just kept firing
questions when they detected a pause. How did I know? I answered a few
sentences and paused a bit to think of what to say next — they fired
another question right away.
The teachers were not any better. One pretended she was a Filipina and
asked me to translate what clearly was her class material from English
to the local language. Seriously?
I stopped going after that. Not worth my time and I figuered if they
really wanted to improve their English, they won’t look for someone like
me anyway because I don’t teach them to pass exams.
Which reminds me — learning in English here, for the most part, is to
pass English exams and throw it down the drain because they don’t
realize how useful English is in this modern age.