Sunday, September 6th, 2009...8:15 am

6 Sept 2009 – English Corner

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Every Sunday at 2pm, Chinese men, women and children of all ages and backgrounds come to Dalian’s most popular Zhongshan Square to congregate with each other and with Americans…to practice their English.  It is a very pleasant and encouraging sight to see these people enthusiastic about learning and perfecting the English language.

Today I made my first appearance, but not without hesitation – more on the Chinese’s part.  They were surprised by their discovery of me not being Chinese, which to them explained my fluency in English and my American accent.  Once they got over that, we were able to communicate with ease.  With the young adults and the middle-aged men, we spoke about politics and economics – mainly the latter.  They were curious about the U.S.’s economic situation as they tried to compare and relate to their own economic crisis (although, “crisis” may be considered an overstatement compared to the U.S., but it was the term consistently used by the locals).  My Psychology background also sparked some interest, but I had to help erase the stigma that all Psyc. students constantly psycho-analyze strangers for their own amusement (aside from that, they found the topic very intriguing).

However, my favorite part of the day was talking to the children.  Their English speaking skills were superb, often better than their parents and the older locals.  They are polite, formal, and very willing to speak.  They ask a lot of questions (where are you from, what is your favorite fruit, how long will you stay in Dalian, are you married, etc) because they just simply want to get to know you.  When I ask for their names, most ask if I want their “Chinese name” or their “English/American name” (as is the case with my students in class), which I find very cool that they can have this dual nomenclature.  I even played a word game with a group of 12-year-olds, though they looked like they were 8.

The best sight, in my opinion, was when I saw the Chinese talk among themselves…in English.  By the end of the day, I got the impression that the people that showed up to English corner were individuals dedicated to becoming bilingual.  Even the parents urged their children to approach me and show off what they could say.  When I left Zhongshan Square after 3 straight hours of conversing, they asked me if I was going to be there next week.  I told them that I couldn’t wait.

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