With five months down as an English teacher in China, I have heard so many things that have left me shaking my head and/or laughing out out. Today, I was sitting at my desk in the office and I happened to glance over at a dialogue on a Chinese grade three English teacher's computer. After noticing this, I decided that this post was necessary:
A: Who's that boy?
B: Which boy?
A: That fat boy.
B: He's the new boy. His name is Billy.
A: Look at him!
obviously wouldn't work in the United States or probably anywhere that
isn't China. With a western mindset I read it as, "Hey, look at that
fat kid. I heard he is new. Let's stare at Billy!"
isn't the teacher's intention as she is clearly just trying to get the
kids to be able to describe people. This also isn't the first time I
encountered a Chinese person calling someone fat without somehow being
offensive. Once I was teaching a lesson about hobbies where the
students were required to write a short paper about what they like
doing. I was pacing the classroom and looking over everyone's shoulder,
just like I (and you) hated when I was younger and in elementary
school, when a I asked a boy what his hobby is because his paper was
blank. He answered something like, "My hobby is playing footba-" when
the girl next to him cut him off and said, "No, his hobby is
eating....because he is FAT!" The boy didn't get upset for some reason
and I tried to kind of ignore it until she made sure that I heard her by
saying it again and encouraging the boy to write it down.
example is when once I tried telling a teacher that the children in
China seem to be in much better shape than most in the United States.
She didn't really believe me, probably because the amount of western
advertising that is around in additions to the actors/actresses in the
English movies she watches. Anyway, she said something like "Oh, no...I
think some of the boys have very big stomachs in my class. They are
fat." BOOM! They always have to throw the bomb in at the end!
forth example of the Chinese accidentally using really direct
statements was without the word "fat" in the sentence. It happened
when I just tested a class and one boy did really poorly. Since I was
new at the time and didn't know the students' abilities, I wanted to
make sure his English was really that bad and wanted to ask in case he
just needed another try. After asking, the teacher, who assists me in
the classroom, nicely informed me that, "he is stupid." I tried really
hard not to laugh but this time I couldn't hold it in and had to tell
her what she actually was saying to me. She too had a laugh and we bring it up from time to time.
and just the other day, I was laughing with this teachers who has two
completely different classes, one is really quiet and shy, while the
other is really crazy and participates a bit too much sometimes. After
saying this she goes (about the crazy class), "They aren't so good at
English....They aren't good at music, P.E., art, math, or really any
class." She did later go on to say that some of the students in the
class are some of the top students in the school but when she talked
about the class as a whole it was pretty funny and a little bit sad.
mostly say these things because "by the book English" sometimes doesn't
work out so well when you are having a conversation with a native
speaker. This is where Michelle and I come in to make sure they don't
get fired for calling an English speaking person fat or stupid unless
they actually mean it.
While looking at some pictures of Michelle and I, our Chinese friend looked at a picture from last year and says, "You were fat!"