Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cultural Exchange with Malaysian Volunteers from NTCU

I've been practicing speaking English one on one via Skype over eight years. I've also been to Brisbane for a dedicated TESOL program subsidized by the MOE for five weeks. On top of that, I've been lucky enough to attend the Global English workshop in Seoul, meeting many wonderful English teachers from neighboring Asian countries. The point is that I really, really enjoy both using English to express myself and getting to meet people outside of Taiwan and their cultures. Can I also create an authentic environment that my students will be motivated to use the language? Well, at least to have a glimpse of what it's like without leaving the country?

This was the second time we did a cultural exchange with those three Malaysian volunteers from NTCU. It was my students' turn to introduce Taichung. Since they have already done this with a Japanese English teacher, Toshi, so they felt more confident introducing Kuang Ming, the historical building nearby (演武場) and Fengjia Night Market in English this time. They talked about how the traditional Chinese music club and the dance class are two of the most well-known features that we all proudly brag about, complete with the location, amenities, even visions of the school. The historical building was built during the Japanese colonial period for the police and guards to practice kendo. With a Japanese-style garden and houses, now it's a popular tourist spot and a good place for shooting wedding photos. When it comes to introducing the beauty of Taichung, one can never miss the good food at Fengjia Night Market. Therefore, some really famous Taiwanese cuisine, such as stinky tofu, pig-blood cakes, pearl milk tea and so on, was introduced to the Malaysian volunteers.

Three stations were hosted by three groups of my students for Jacklyn, Joyce and Rachel to rotate through, which means they each presented their topics three times in total. Repetition worked wonders, prompting the students to present without the scripts. Because they knew exactly what to say when a new round began, I could just see that enthusiasm and confidence were radiating from some of them. Also, with some follow-up questions asked by the volunteers, they got to practice answering questions by trying their best looking for the right words and phrases to say. Most important of all, they were learning to carry on the conversation with casual talk all by themselves, with me only observing and taking pictures.

I love reading their feedback and reflection, especially this one: "This is by far the most successful cultural exchange I've experienced from this class. I didn't read my script at all. Furthermore, I added more detail to my presentation. For next Skype exchange, I'd like to talk about school life because I would feel relaxed and confident to talk about it.". Well, what can I ask for more? They're gradually learning that using English is fun. To answer the question that if it is possible to bring the English speaking environment to the classroom, all I have to do is look at the pictures of their sharing, laughing and trying so hard to elaborate in English.

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