CHINESE TEACHERS GET CULTURAL SHOCKS IN AMERICA
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
Zhong Yue, a 27 year old Chinese teacher enters her classroom in a school in Lawton, Oklahoma, USA to teach the American students Chinese language. Some students are chewing gum, others are just in a relaxing mode; half sitting and half lying in their seats. No one gets up to honour the teacher. Zhong Yue is shocked at this behaviour of her students.
The student advisor explained to her later that it is considered normal behaviour in that part of the world. The Chinese teacher found it in contrast to the student behaviour back home in China. There the moment students see a teacher enter a classroom, they jump to attention. Not doing so in America did not mean showing any disrespect to a teacher by the students, the headmaster explained later.
TEACHING – LEARNING PROCESS
Zhong Yue found her American students intelligent and quick on the uptake. They were keen on learning the new language, especially the script comprising characters that represented ideas. There are no alphabets in Chinese script unlike English. The American students found the script and the tonal spoken language rather difficult to learn. But the patience and perseverance of the Chinese teacher and the desire of students to learn a new language worked like a spoonful of sugar that makes the bitter medicine go down in a delightful way. Their combined efforts produced results and in the periodical tests no one submitted a blank answer sheet. Three cheers to the teacher and the taught, so said the academic head of the secondary wing of languages.
The class was going on smoothly day after day and week after week. There was a storm in the tea cup of the oriental teacher. As she was writing the Chinese characters on the black board, there was a minor commotion in the class. A teenage student entered with a new born baby in her lap and showed her to the class with a sense of pride. Students welcomed the new arrival in the lap of an unwed teenage mother and celebrated with a loud clapping. Our Zhong Yue was in for a bigger cultural shock. How could this happen, she mused. In China it is just unthinkable. The social set up would never allow it, she surmised. America is America and China is China, so she figured. Rudyard Kipling the imperialistic English poet had written more than a century ago “East is East, West is West; the Twain shall never meet.”The young Chinese teacher, still a spinster, consoled herself that her job is teaching the Chinese language to Americans and not to meddle with their social system.
Zhong Yue was not alone in receiving cultural shocks in America. Other Chinese teachers spread out over the length and breadth of the United States were in for similar cultural shocks. Wiser counsels prevailed and they continued with their assignments taking new life in a philosophical way. Confucius, Buddha and Tao came to their help and rescued them.
Both the Chinese and American governments are keen that the Chinese language, now called the Pútung Hua or the common man’s language, be taught to the American students all over the country. This will be helpful in the ever growing volume of trade and commerce between the two countries. To achieve the aim, as many as 325 native Chinese teachers from mainland China have been seconded to various secondary schools in America. The Chinese government pays its teachers US dollars 13,000 each whereas the US government pays US dollars 500 each plus free furnished accommodation and transport facility where required. On an exchange programme the United States has deployed as many as 2000 educational administrators in China to advise the local administration on nuances of modern management.
CHINESE RELISH AMERICAN BURGER
By and by the Chinese teachers are taking to American burger like fish takes to water. It does not mean that they have forgotten the taste of noodles. No, not at all. The Chinese food in America called Chop Suey has noodles as the base on which a garnishing of pork is relished. By the way, both the American people and the Chinese people love to eat pork. This may be one of the reasons why the Islamic world is not comfortable in their company except when their cash comes handy. Pork takes a back seat in the Middle-East psyche then.
The Chinese teachers enjoy working five days a week and join the faculty for fun in the weekends. This gives them an opportunity to sharpen their knowledge of English and master the American accent too. In an informal exchange of ideas with their counterparts, the Chinese teachers informally register their abhorrence of the American student lifestyle. Drinking and dating and a freedom to have sex is beyond the imagination of the guest Chinese teachers.
The Chinese educationists are of the opinion that the student community should have only one thing uppermost in their minds and it is STUDY. Nothing in life should be permitted to detract a student from achieving his or her primary aim. Smoking, drinking, dating and indulging in teenage pre-marital sex make students deviate from their chosen path. So, it would be advisable to shun such mundane pleasures that pave the way to hell. When confronted with the age-old saying “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, the retort was that all play and no work makes Jack a worthless boy. After a free and frank exchange of views a middle road was found. A little of fun thrown into a busy academic schedule will not lead the students astray. Of course, sports will provide a healthy outlet and that must be encouraged at all levels.”A healthy mind in a healthy body” is the panacea of all ills at this impressionable age.
The teaching of the Pútung Hua is going on at its normal pace and a promise of positive results is on the academic horizon.