Lessons to Learn - Part 5

Go Back to Part Four: The Markets or Begin with Part One: The Call

There were so many new things to learn in China. I was glad that there was almost a month before I had to start teaching so I could get used to some things, but I was also eager to teach. I started out with an university class. I had so much fun with them. My students’ ages ranged from 15 to 23.  I tried to do different things with the class all the time.  I was told to choose the books for this class and picked Dashan. Dashan is a Canadian whose Chinese is very good. He even has his own television program in China which makes him “famous”. (Like leaders, there are a lot of “famous” people in China.) What I liked about the books were their use of dialogue and everyday situations to teach the language. It was one of the few curriculums that had an even balance of both Chinese and English. I would love to write my own curriculum. A curriculum specifically to be taught by missionaries.

I enjoyed coming up with unique lessons. One morning, I had some of the boys carry up a television and a bicycle and a suitcase. That stuck. I think everyone remembered the words for those items.

I also enjoyed teaching them different ways to say “yes” and “no”. Words like alright, sure, yeah, uh huh, nope and uh uh. My students especially enjoyed “uh huh” and “uh uh”.  I taught these phrases to every class. It was a good way to break the ice in a class.

On Fridays, the students clean the building. One Friday, I brought my radio out into the hallway to play while they worked and helped them. They enjoyed it and we had fun laughing together while we clapped chalkboard erasers and scrubbed windows.

Basically, Chinese and American teens are the same. My students put up pictures of popular musicians. They wear jeans and think wearing all black is cool. The girls like to shop and the boys like to eat. At least a third of them carry pagers, which surprised me.

Unlike American teenagers, Chinese teens are respectful, polite, obedient and courteous. Also, as long as their parents are alive they will ask for and follow their parents’ advice and will provide for their parents.

I also taught a class of young students under 10 years of age. They knew very little English and were a challenge to teach, but I loved them. One of my girls in this class was quite naughty, but she cried the hardest when I told them I would have to leave. I loved all of my students. There were only two boys in this class but between them and my naughty girl, I was sometimes ready to pull my hair out.

Then, I had a class of adult students. I was younger than any of my students and was nervous about teaching an adult class. But this class turned out to be the one I enjoyed the most. These students asked questions.

In one class, in order to show them how to write a resume, I wrote my resume on the board. Including the high school I graduated from—Maranatha Baptist Academy. (I did take the “Baptist” out.) One of my students pointed it out and asked if it was a church school. It’s amazing how many thoughts can run through your mind in a matter of seconds. My first thought was, “How does he know about church schools?” and the second thought was “Now what do I do?”.  I explained that American parents are just like Chinese parents and want their children to receive the best education. Public schools, I told them, do not have good education so parents want their children to go to private schools where the education is much better. In America, almost all private schools are church schools. You know that verse about the Holy Spirit giving you the words to say when you need them? He does.

Not knowing Chinese was frustrating at times. I started picking words and phrases up right away, but there were so many more I wanted to know. Learning Chinese while in China was an ideal setting, though. I can write only four or five characters, but I learned to speak around eight hundred words. In one way, I think it was better that I had not studied the language before going. Having to learn it on the hoof, so to speak, made me analyze how the words were used in everyday speech so I could use my new words correctly. Learning to differentiate between the four tones is difficult, but overall, I think Chinese is a fairly easy language to learn to speak. It has no conjugation, no plurals and no masculine/feminine to worry about. Learning to read and write the 50,000 or so characters may still prove a challenge, though. I can hardly wait to take classes. Until I really know the language, I cannot truly begin to get to know people and tell them about Christ.

I suppose everyone learning a new language experiences a faux pas or two. My big mistake was with the common phrase “meiyou wente”. Which means “no problem”. I thought the laughter when I said this was of the usual “she talks funny” variety. That is, until Sarah explained that I was using the wrong tone on the “wen”. I was using the fourth tone instead of the second tone and instead of saying “no problem”, I was saying “kiss me”.  The proper tone is very important in speaking Chinese.

Go Forward to Part Six: The Bathhouse
Daily Proverb

Proverbs 24:10

If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.