This is the Flame Forum, so I’m letting my alter-ego, Pissed-Off Tomas, out of his cage.
I get evaluated by my students, adult learners preparing for standarized exams, four times a year. My statistical ratings are always about the same, but comments will vary from the mundane to the truly unique.
The most ridiculous comment award from last quarter’s evaluations goes to a student in my Reading Methods class, who wrote on her evaluation (translated from Chinese):
“He is a good teacher, and his Mandarin is excellent, but he was ocassionally imprecise in his use of spoken Mandarin. This failure to achieve 100% accuracy in the use of Mandarin is a shame. I wonder if he truly understands all of the obstacles Chinese (sic) students face in learning English.”
Yes, I think I do understand the obstacles you face in learning English. I believe that the biggest obstacle you face is that the FUCKING EDUCATION SYSTEM you participate in for six years sets you up to fail by:
- Using Mandarin, exclusively, to teach you English, thereby instilling in you the firm belief that you can only think about a foreign language in Mandarin. What the hell are your teachers thinking, teaching a foreign language in Mandarin?
- Teaching you to translate each sentence, paragraph, and article you encounter word for word in order to understand its meaning. This gives you the false belief that in order to understand what an author has written, you must first translate his or her writing entirely into Mandarin. It also makes you insecure about your reading skills. Don’t know the meaning of a particular word? Ah! Then, you can’t understand the sentence.
- Boring you to tears with badly written, ineffective teaching materials that utterly fail to instill in you any sense of the joys of learning a foreign language.
- Teaching you that memorizing lists of vocabulary is of any use when in fact, learned outside of any meaningful context, this method of acquiring vocabulary is useless.
- Putting you under the tutelage of “teachers” who have never lived in an English-speaking country, and who lack the ability to pronounce and write English properly.
I strongly dislike teaching in Mandarin, not because I don’t enjoy speaking Mandarin, but because I feel that I am an unwilling participant in a giant fuck-up, otherwise known as the Taiwanese concept of English education. Even if I spoke very slowly and selected only commonly used words and phrases, 80% of my students would walk away having comprehended less than 50% of what I teach them. More importantly, the difficult and abstract subject matter of these classes would be impossible for most of them to comprehend if taught in English. They pay money to learn how to succeed on tests, so I’m forced to use Mandarin as a short-term solution to the problem of getting ready for a test in a short period of time. My students don’t suck. They are victims of a system that sucks.