Potential English student actually angered me

OK this is a bizarre story that I just want to share with others.

A few days ago a lady called me and asked if I could teach her English, so I said “OK let’s set up a meeting.” The whole time during the meeting she seemed to have a very bad temper, almost childish. Ostensibly, the main disagreement was that she wanted to learn using KK 音標, while I wanted to teach using the more natural system (repetition). However, there must have been something else going on, because as the lesson progressed she got more and more upset. Maybe she was frustrated that in the past she never learned English very well, despite her efforts, because she kept saying things like, “I am already nearly 30, yet my English is very poor.” Maybe I was imagining it, but I think at one point she was almost starting to cry!

Anyway, this was just a very bizarre experience for me. I consider myself patient to a fault, and the fact that someone could manage to piss me off, over something as simple as an initial meeting to discuss English teaching, boggles me.

Sounds like you got an honest-to-goodness psycho xiaojie.

How did you get out of lesson 2? You might want to change your locks and your phone number.

EDIT: I’m not just being mean (not really). I think the poor girl probably does have psychological issues. Maybe her school english teacher was one of those who used traditional methods, such as beating the crap out of any student who didn’t score 100% on the teacher’s (grammatically incorrect) test. Not much you can do about it though.

Yeah seriously there must’ve been something else going on that I was unaware of…cause how could she be getting so upset over something as simple as an English lesson? I dunno. Maybe you’re right, she had some really bad history with English education in the past…it had to be Something, because all we were doing was just sitting there reading sentences, and then she starts tearing up as if she’s going to cry. Or maybe I’m not quite so patient as I imagined…but still…I’ve taught lots of students in the past this is not usually how things go down.

Maybe she was just having a bad day. Her arsehole boss says that he’s trimming staff in this “bad economy”, and she needs English skills if they’re going to keep her on. She books a test lesson with you, realises she understands nary a word in six, and the whole cycle of stress (shite, going to lose my job, what about the rent?) and the fact that she hasn’t slept in two nights and her mother’s in hospital and she had a fight with her boyfriend pushes her to the edge of tears. :idunno:

Yeah…maybe I was having a bad day too.

Sounds like a certain student who we at our office called “Miss Negative”. Occasionally we come across people like this, but the problem is that the kind of help they truly need isn’t the kind we are qualified to give. She may suffer from depression or self-esteem problems.

Taffy’s right. When people behave strangely, we assume there’s something ‘wrong’ with them, rather than something bad that could happen to anyone might have happened.

It’s good to really listen to learners as well. What is she saying when she insists on certain ways of working? Why not incorporate what she wants and feels comfortable with, as well as what you feel is the best way? Write stuff down in KK, if she likes that. It takes next to zero time, and being dogmatic doesn’t help you develop, either.

I kind of suspect Taffy may be right too. I think the issue was her having a bad day, not the KK system.

But as far as that goes, I actually think the KK system is wrong. Well, I have only limited experience with it, but Taiwanese people keep pronouncing words, then I try to correct them, then they say, “But that’s how the KK system told me to pronounce it.” Then I say, “Well can foreigners understand when you talk to them?” and they having nothing to say.

That’s just my experience. I have never really studied KK so maybe there’s something else going on that I’m unaware of, or maybe I just don’t understand the system fully. Maybe some other Forumosans can shed more light on this.

[quote=“John Yu”]I kind of suspect Taffy may be right too. I think the issue was her having a bad day, not the KK system.

But as far as that goes, I actually think the KK system is wrong. Well, I have only limited experience with it, but Taiwanese people keep pronouncing words, then I try to correct them, then they say, “But that’s how the KK system told me to pronounce it.” Then I say, “Well can foreigners understand when you talk to them?” and they having nothing to say.

That’s just my experience. I have never really studied KK so maybe there’s something else going on that I’m unaware of, or maybe I just don’t understand the system fully. Maybe some other Forumosans can shed more light on this.[/quote]
KK is based on the “Guide to American Pronunciation” (not sure about the exact name) by Kenyon and Knott. It’s a little dated but not a bad pronunciation resource. The KK system is almost identical to the IPA and almost all the symbols are the same. There is some criticism of it such as that diphthongs are represented by one symbol and it is then difficult to know which is a vowel and which is a diphthongs. My first feeling would be to learn the symbols or at least have a guide handy, and write down some of the pronunciation for her, rather than trying to get her to remember things through a method she might not be familiar with yet. Then slowly but surely, you can guide her to your way.
There is a perception also that the IPA is the DJ system. It’s not. You can google both.

Yep. Pressure might come from multiple sources at work if one’s English skills aren’t up to the demands of the project of the day. There’s no good reason for you to be the outlet for that, but such things happen.

[quote=“John Yu”]I kind of suspect Taffy may be right too. I think the issue was her having a bad day, not the KK system.

But as far as that goes, I actually think the KK system is wrong. Well, I have only limited experience with it, but Taiwanese people keep pronouncing words, then I try to correct them, then they say, “But that’s how the KK system told me to pronounce it.” Then I say, “Well can foreigners understand when you talk to them?” and they having nothing to say.

That’s just my experience. I have never really studied KK so maybe there’s something else going on that I’m unaware of, or maybe I just don’t understand the system fully. Maybe some other Forumosans can shed more light on this.[/quote]

I’d say their poor pronunciation skills, and lack of practice lead to their errors, rather than KK itself. It’s a relatively easy system which can be learned in short order. Becoming familiar with it is a useful tool for a teacher working here, if only because it is so commonly used by local students.

That said, I disagree with its use. I feel its emphasis here is a time waster. English does not need a parallel phonetic system. Students should spend their time learning to sound out their words, rather than searching for an English equivalent of bopomofo. I don’t have concrete proof of this, but I feel KK contributes to the local habit of trying to recognise English words like Chinese characters, rather than actually reading (eg locals will often read the wrong forms of words, such as “economic” when the word on the page is “economy,” or “economise.”) KK is not available in all situations students will encounter, so it is better not to become dependent on it as many Taiwanese are. Finally, it can lead many local learners to believe it is the final word on correct pronunciation. I’ve had locals tell me my native-speaker pronunciation was not correct, because it did not correspond with KK (I want to smash those little electronic dictionaries sometimes).

Sounds like at this point she would be better in a class with other “adults” rather then on a one-on-one.

Shes definitely stressed about something going on in her life.

I had a brief language exchange with an American girl of chinese descent (to keep my mandarin up to scratch) and we had a great first hour, having a bite to eat. Then moved on to a cafe and i made the mistake of asking if she had a boyfriend (just a innocent, getting to know someone as a person thing. I wasnt putting the make on her as I had a gf then) and she suddenly burst out in tears and stormed out. Not the reaction I was expecting. Note to self: dont ask a language exchange partner about her personal life on a first meeting.

See this is what I thought too, but I was afraid to say it, having never studied KK before.

See this is what I thought too, but I was afraid to say it, having never studied KK before.[/quote]
That’s just not true. Everyone else uses IPA and because most have no idea what that is, they think Taiwanese people thought up KK. It comes from the US and is almost exactly the same as IPA and DJ. DJ and KK used IPA symbols and tiny changes to note and identify pronunciation that could be used as a guide. You can not be all for IPA and all against KK if you understand what they do. IPA is also a “parallel phonetic system” yet it is used by most proper teachers!
If a students runs into a word like ‘gourmet’ and they have learned to read (sound out) shoulder and house, which one should they use as a guide or do you think this retarded “parallel phonetic system” could maybe come in handy. Maybe that is why every ESL teacher that knows what he’s doing uses some from of pron guide whether it be Adrian Underhill’s or whatever and teach students how to check words in a dictionary and immediately know how to pronounce them.
Sorry to say but 80star is wrong. Don’t follow his lead here. There are good things you can do with phonetic knowledge.

I tend to agree with 80star. Phonetics have their use–in a dictionary. But learners here tend to overuse them and make them a crutch. If it was an issue whether JY wanted to use them for a student who seemingly has poor English, than that is probably the case.

See this is what I thought too, but I was afraid to say it, having never studied KK before.[/quote]
That’s just not true. Everyone else uses IPA and because most have no idea what that is, they think Taiwanese people thought up KK. It comes from the US and is almost exactly the same as IPA and DJ. DJ and KK used IPA symbols and tiny changes to note and identify pronunciation that could be used as a guide. You can not be all for IPA and all against KK if you understand what they do. IPA is also a “parallel phonetic system” yet it is used by most proper teachers!
If a students runs into a word like ‘gourmet’ and they have learned to read (sound out) shoulder and house, which one should they use as a guide or do you think this retarded “parallel phonetic system” could maybe come in handy. Maybe that is why every ESL teacher that knows what he’s doing uses some from of pron guide whether it be Adrian Underhill’s or whatever and teach students how to check words in a dictionary and immediately know how to pronounce them.
Sorry to say but 80star is wrong. Don’t follow his lead here. There are good things you can do with phonetic knowledge.[/quote]

Refer back to what I wrote earlier. I was very specific in what I said, and I stand by it. I am not interested in a pissing contest with someone who insinuates others are not “proper” teachers.

IPA is really useful. Of course it doesn’t help you spell words because it’s nothing to do with orthography, but it’s a very useful notation system for learners and teachers. Use everything in your arsenal.

Problem I find with phonetic alphabets is that they seem to hinder the student from recognising word roots/suffixes/etc. and making connections between similar sounding words having similar meanings.

I can see where it can be useful - especially if most of your study is using a book, no sound - but if you’re actually good at English you’ll find that you can sound out most words correctly…even words like ‘gourmet’. Only foreigners and idiots would say it ‘goor-met’, and I’d be surprised if a fluent non-native speaker would pronounce it incorrectly, too.

Or… she could have realized that English was that easy under John’s class! And she realized that she’d spent years suffering under traditional methods, only to come to the conclusion that that entire effort was in vain! And John’s class was what she’d been looking for!

Haha I don’t think that’s the case…since she never called me back after that first lesson…hopefully she’ll find what’s she looking for eventually.