China Team Journal

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Xi’An Program Journal April 10 – May 1, 2010

This program was unique from the standpoint of I was a group of one for this outstanding 3 week program. The following is a summary of my working at the Xi’an College of Career and Technology augmenting the English speaking program.

When I arrived in Xi’An, Baoli was temporarily ill, but she had chosen an assistant Susan Shang, a student at the career college, who did an excellent job meeting all the scheduled commitments.

The first week I met with students studying hotel management. There were about 30 shy students who were for the most part beginning level English speaking although their reading and writing skills were much higher. For the week we practiced making room reservations, conference room reservations, dialogue for questions about a hotel health club, and various other hotel situations. I wrote the basic script on the board for the students to follow with encouragement to create or add to it as they felt appropriate. One day we practiced and discussed international differences in using hand and body gestures used in everyday communications. China and the USA seemed to have no conflicts although students were cautioned to be mindful of possible problems. Near the end of the week we discussed differences in school systems, postal systems, and possible jobs available to students after they graduate.

On the weekend of the first week I went to dinner with the family of a student I met while on a GV program in 2001. Janet is now an English professor at Xi’An International University.

During the second week I worked with a group of students studying international business. They seemed to somewhat better speaking skill than last week’s students, but still mostly beginning level. During the week we worked on creating business letters and negotiating contracts and developing dialogue for buying merchandise for an international business. Tuesday I was invited to a dumpling lunch at one of the teacher’s apartments on campus. As I am a hobby cook I was able to get a lesson on how to make Chinese dumplings. Wednesday and Thursday the international business students described the various job opportunities were available after graduation followed by each student describing their family members and what kind of work they did. A significant number were either farmers, apple orchardists, or small business owners. China produces 30% of the world’s apples. Friday we continued with the family profiles and a comparison of Chinese and American holidays. Saturday I visited a Confucius museum an art street with many stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs. While at the museum one of the guides asked me if I could visit with him so he might improve his spoken English. So for the next 45 minutes we had an interesting conversation that has now become email visits.

The last week was a return of the hotel management students of the first week. We compared American and Chinese holiday celebrations, how to write a business letter and returned to having the students create various hotel situations such as ordering food at a restaurant, answering hotel guest’s questions about exchanging money, finding the laundry facility, and giving directions to hotel guests. I wrote a basic dialogue on the board and encouraged students to add to it and develop their own two-way conversations. Wednesday I was invited to lunch by the school director at one of the restaurants that is uses the hotel management students as interns for part of their training. This is probably the largest restaurant facility I have ever seen as it has the ability to serve over 1500 guests at one event plus individual banquet rooms for smaller groups. The staff that attended our lunch was made up of hotel management students. In China lunch is kind of a misnomer as all my lunch experiences were more on the order of a banquet. After the “lunch” students spoke on what part of China they are from and details about their immediate family. Students at this point began to show their English speaking ability skills, which were improved from the first week. Much of their improvement was from a loss of shyness and being more comfortably with the class the second week. Thursday the students explained how and what their cell phones answering various questions from me about the individual features of unit. After lunch the students and faculty held a farewell party for me at which students sang, read poetry, and gave many speeches that seems to be a cultural phenomenon in China. On the last day I attempted to present some English idioms. To my surprise some students already knew some and had Chinese idioms that had similar meaning as ours.

I found the 3-week program as a group of one a very enjoyable event and am looking forward to participating in another GV program.