Thursday, January 12, 2017

Chinese Class Anxiety

My school has a Confucius Institute, which is the Chinese Communist Party's way of teaching Mandarin to Americans in exchange for the Americans occasionally listening to propaganda. I'm fine with it because it's no different from the propaganda I had to hear while I was in China. But others find it controversial.

Last semester they offered Mandarin classes that could be described as Level 1 and Level 2. This semester the Level 1 teacher is re-teaching Level 1 for any new students (or for anyone that wants to review the material), while the Level 2 teacher is going on and offering a Level 3 class. I no longer need Level 1 instruction, but I'm unsure I'm ready to make the jump to Level 3. Since those are the only options, though, I've made the jump and I figure it'll be good for me to be really challenged.

I'm concerned, though, that I'll be so far behind the other students that I'll be hurting the class, so there's some anxiety there for me. I went to the first class and the students were two people who had been in Level 2 and a new woman with some extensive Mandarin learning under her belt. A little later a woman from my previous class joined us. She and I are probably very close in terms of our skill.

But then we were joined by another guy from my previous class, and he is TERRIBLE. So, so terrible. He was possibly the worst student in Level 1 (of those that came the entire term). He has no ear for tones and almost doesn't even know that tones EXIST, given how unconcerned he is about them. He ignores the ways in which Pinyin letters differ from English letters, so anything he says with a C, Q, R, X, or Z in it is unintelligible. He might be expected to mumble a bit, then, but instead he is very loud with his terrible pronunciations. The teacher asks us to repeat "qi" and we all say "qi" while he yells, "SHY!" Or "QUY!" Or anything, really. It's all a possibility with this guy.

He wants some camaraderie with us Level 1 graduates because he thinks we're in the same boat. We're not in the same boat. I'm clinging to the side of the boat, while he's still on the shore, fully dressed, walking inland.

I know a charitable person would befriend him and try to help him and whatnot, but I don't have the time, skill, or disposition to do that. I just want to make sure that our teacher doesn't say, "Everyone who tried to skip Level 2 isn't ready and needs to go back."

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