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  1. #1
    Gillnetter is offline Key Member
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    Default Teaching older Chinese lady to speak English

    I have been asked to help an older Chinese lady to learn spoken English. She passed all of the written test for US citizenship but failed the oral interview. This interview is about 15 minutes long. The interviewer typically asks some simple questions in English and waits for a response from the candidate in English. Questions generally are similar to: "Where do you live?", "Who was the first President?", and "When was the American Civil War". This lady has been in the US for about 10 years and lives with her daughter in Southern California. She has not been forced to learn any English as she can go to Chinese markets in the area and speak to other Chinese in her neighborhood. In the past five years I have worked mostly with Spanish speakers from Mexico. Since Mexico is very close and English and Spanish are similar, as are the cultures, I am at somewhat of a loss on how to begin with this student. I would appreciate any insights on how to best help this lady.

  2. #2
    Nichalia is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Teaching older Chinese lady to speak English

    If you'd like to read a bit more on what to expect from a Chinese learner of English, here are two short articles. I'm sure there are more around the internet as well.
    Language differences: English - Chinese
    Teaching English to Chinese Students

    Regarding cultural issues, I'd encourage you to try to build a bit of a relationship with her, be positive, use praise, and be aware of the idea of saving and losing face. (You don't want to have her feel ashamed, particularly in front of other people. She may also be harder on herself and more uncomfortable with the idea of making mistakes in front of you, the teacher, particularly if you're not yet comfortable with each other.) And don't write or cross out her name with red ink. :)

  3. #3
    EnglishFix is offline Member
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    Default Re: Teaching older Chinese lady to speak English

    I think practicing the questions over and over is the best way.
    Of course make sure that she understands the questions and give her a cheat sheet where she can read the answers.

    After a while, remove some of the words from her cheat sheet so that can better memorize the answers.
    And then after a while try it without the cheat sheet.

    I'd also make her a CD with the questions and answers for her to practice with.

  4. #4
    Gillnetter is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Teaching older Chinese lady to speak English

    Quote Originally Posted by EnglishFix View Post
    I think practicing the questions over and over is the best way.
    Of course make sure that she understands the questions and give her a cheat sheet where she can read the answers.

    After a while, remove some of the words from her cheat sheet so that can better memorize the answers.
    And then after a while try it without the cheat sheet.

    I'd also make her a CD with the questions and answers for her to practice with.
    Thanks for the response. I met with the lady and her daughter. It turns out that rote memorization is used extensively in China. She can read the question and give an answer but if asked the question in a different way, she is lost. In essence, her English skills are almost non-existent. For example, I asked her "What is the date of your birth" and she told me the month, day, and year. Next, I asked her when she was born and she had no idea of what I asked her. The comical thing about this is when I asked the daughter why her mother wanted to become a citizen (she is a permanent resident and can remain so the rest of her life), she told me that insurance rates are lower for citizens. I have two months to get her ready for the oral exam so I guess I will work mostly on getting her to understand basic English.

  5. #5
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    probus is offline Key Member
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    Default

    Very tough duty. Good luck.

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Teaching older Chinese lady to speak English

    If the questions are fairly standard, can't you go over possible variations and get her to learn them?

  7. #7
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    emsr2d2 is online now Moderator
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    Default Re: Teaching older Chinese lady to speak English

    Whilst I sympathise with your (and her) difficulties with this, bear in mind that you should not simply be aiming to "get her through the test" so she can get citizenship. I would suggest that you actually try to teach her English and even recommend that you continue with the classes even after she passes the test. I would hope that both she and her daughter can see that if she is to be a citizen of a country, it is only fair and desirable that she speak the language competently.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

  8. #8
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    konungursvia is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Teaching older Chinese lady to speak English

    I would focus on phonetics first. I wouldn't say that English and Spanish are similar, either. ;)

  9. #9
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    Uğur Keskin is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Teaching older Chinese lady to speak English

    Firstly, you can try to give that lady certain chunks and then, you can show different combinations with different words via these chunks. You should teach vocabulary by showing pictures or demonstrate possible ones because memorization can be useless for that ages. If the lady manage to connect chunks and newly learned words, it may be work.
    Just an idea :)

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