Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Back to School

Well, I'm two days into the new school term. I just started yet another job teaching for a company called EWAS (English with a Smile). They trained me back in April for another job I hold, but now I officially work for them too. That brings me to a total of three jobs, bringing me to a grand total of 29 working hours a week. Not so impressive, but please consider I have to spend half my day trapsing around the city on various forms of public transport.

This week I'm teaching at only one school, Richland. Next week my schedule will fill up a bit more as the new term starts at two other schools. The children at this school are quite adorable and don't seem to be of the pants-pooping variety. All the kids are pre-school aged and are already working quite hard. The first class I teach is of 5/6-year-olds and it is at 5:20 pm. The second class is of 3/4-year-olds and I teach them from 6:15-7pm. I feel sorry that they have to study (a foreign language as annoying as English, at that) so late. But that's life here. The competition is really fierce and even in grade school the kids go to school on weekends. I guess they just instated some sort of law saying grade school kids are not allowed to attend school on Sundays. It's sad they need a law for that.

In the classroom I do have an assistant/translator. She's Chinese and very sweet. Her name is Jennifer. Her English isn't brilliant, but she gets the job done, although I can almost translate everything on my own behalf these days. It's a little difficult having a conversation with her though. For example, I asked her how to say "can" (as in "soda can") in Chinese. I always forget how to say this word and therefore must always order bottles (a word I do know) of things when I rather just have a 12 oz. Life's little dilemmas. Anyways, this simple question turned into a 10 minute discussion in which Jennifer tried to figure out what I was asking.

Jennifer: "A can? I'm sorry, I don't understand."
me: "You know, a can. It's like a bottle, but smaller. Coca-cola comes in it."
Jennifer: "Can? You mean like 'I can speak English,' that can?"
me: "Um, no." (while thinking: If you can speak English, we really wouldn't be having this conversation now, would we?)
Jennifer: "I'm sorry. I do not know. Can? C-A-N?"

This kinda thing pretty much happens on a daily basis. I'm used to struggling to communicate and I really only have myself to blame. I live in China and beyond the basics, I cannot speak Chinese. And let's also put some blame on the complexity of the English language. Here is a language in which 2 words can be written the same but sound different (read, read. live, live). Can be written different, but sound the same (right, write). Can be written the same, sound the same, but have different meanings (can, can). It's all so overwhelming. I think I need to go rest now.

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