Wednesday, 24 June 2009

correct translations of wing chun terminology

In the west, there are thousands of people who practice Wing Chun. Unfortunately, they often translate the words wrongly, so I thought I would outline some basic techniques, with the appropriate characters and translations.

詠春拳 (mandarin: yong chun quan/cantonese: wing chun kuen) literally: sing spring fist. the simplified version of the first character (咏)is made up of 永(forever, also pronounced yong) and the radical 口(mouth). there is no reference to beauty in the meaning of the character.

小念头 (xiao nian tou/siu lim tao) literally: little/small, and the second and third characters together mean thought/idea/intention

寻桥 (xun qiao/chum kiu) literally: seeking bridge

标指 (biao zhi/biu ji) literally: shoot fingers

摊手 (tan shou/taan sao) literally: spreading hand

膀手 (bang shou/bong sao) literally: wing hand (the first character has many meanings, including shoulder, wing, upper arm and swollen

覆手 (fu shou/fuk sao) literally: cover hand

黐手 (chi shou/chi sao) literally: glue/stick hand

Saturday, 20 June 2009

My Experience of Teaching English in China

As my time in Qingdao draws to a close, I want to reflect on my year and a half teaching here. Its been over 2 years since I first set foot in China, back in Xi'an, and it feels like a lifetime ago.

When I first arrived in Qingdao airport, my new boss was due to meet me at the airport. I couldnt find him anywhere, and then I decided to walk around outside the airport where I eventually found him. He had been waiting for me in the wrong place and then asked me what took me so long! This pretty much set the tone for things here- crap organisation! I had no experience in teaching or qualifications to do it, but that didnt matter in China, I had a white face and spoke English.

The first day we went to the school to meet our teaching assistants I was pretty nervous. I met my assistant, who seemed to be under the impression I knew exactly what to do and I had to make a lesson plan with no help or suggestions. I didnt even know where to start and when I asked for help, she just said to me "you're the foreign teacher, you decide." Then we went to a classroom and taught our planned lesson in front of all the foreing teachers and assistants, with a couple of superiors taking notes. That was probably the most nervous I felt during my time. So that concluded what was supposed to be a weeks training; doing a practice lesson and never getting any feedback.

My first day at school, I was also really nervous. That moment I first walked into the classroom was a big moment in my life. I saw 50 plus Chinese kids all staring straight at me, and then this 20 second piece of classical music played which signalled the start of the lesson (I guess it's more imaginative than just a bell). Then my assistant gave them a speech in Chinese and it was my turn to start. The first words I said were "hello, my name is Will and I'm from England." I shakily wrote my name on the board. We went through the lesson, which was based on a chant:

"Spring is green,
Summer is bright,
Fall is golden,
Winter is white."

Then at the end we played a game where I hide a card under someones desk and a kid has to find it while the other kids all shout the word louder as the kid gets closer. After that initial lesson, I got into the swing of things and it became natural. Now I feel so much more confident in myself from this experience.

Morning break consisted of the kids going to the playground, standing in perfect lines while military themes play from loud speakers and a man bellows Mandarin at them. Then some happy music plays and they all do a strange dance in perfect formation. Sometimes they got in circles and danced too. Every Monday was a flag raising ceremony which involved military themes and all the teachers had to wear formal dress (as opposed to normal days, when teachers wore anything they liked). Now, I think the strangest thing for any westerner, is the eye excercises every morning at 11 o'clock. Some really trippy music plays while the kids massage their eyes for 10 minutes to the count in Mandarin "yi, er, san, si, wu..." As this is going on, the monitors walk around with canes and hit their classmates if they do it wrong.

The monitors are glorified grassers (tattle-tale for the Americans reading) basically. Their job is to keep discipline in class when the teacher isn't there. It's a job all the kids want, and when they get it, they become little drill sargeants. Hitting, however is technically forbidden, although some teachers do it, and hard.

Chinese students are excellent as memorisation, a lot of their education involves memorisation of textbooks, phrases etc. This has it's good points, but it does kill their indivuality and imagination. When we give them the oral exam (which we are not allowed to fail any kids at), they usually have a standard reply to a question:

"How are you?"
"Im' fine, thank you and you?"

"What are you doing?"
"I'm watching TV."

Teaching them new words, we were told to make them repeat it twice in English, twice in Chinese, sometimes we could spend up to 20 minutes doing this- "big big, da-de, da-de."
"little little, xiao-de xiao-de."

In my time here, I really bonded with the kids. I felt like all 600 of my students were like a family to me, and I was always happy to see them in the streets or shops outside school. I would love to come back and teach again, it is an amazing experience, something you probably only realise after you finish. it's changed my life anyway. China will always have a big place in my heart. Not the government, but the common people; the taxi drivers with dirty suits and bed-head, the old men who sit on the street and miss out all the consonants in words when they speak to you, the geeky looking teenagers who shout hello at you in the street and run away, the man at the market who pretends to get offended when you bargain the price down, the women whose job is to stand at the supermarket door and shout "huan yin guang lin" (welcome) at you as you walk in.