Monday, September 21, 2009

"Shhhh, Be Quiet!"

One thing I'm learning about my Vietnamese students:

When I ask them to speak in front of the class, it's like pulling teeth. When it's someone else's turn to speak, all of a sudden, they can't shut up.

They don't get chatty when I'm speaking, of course. That's the kind of stunt you would NEVER see a Vietnamese student pull off. However, when their friends are reciting dialogues at the front of the room or answeing a question of mine that requires at least a few sentences in response, I hear voices all around.

And they're not even trying to be quiet!

Upon reflection, I find this funny. During class, though, it's quite irritating. I keep putting my right index finger to my lips and making the "shhh" sound over and over again. Silence follows for about ten seconds. Then the talking resumes. Incredible.

I've got some hypotheses as to why this is. For one, maybe they're just as fed up with the fact that they, like me, have literally no idea what their fellow students are saying in front of the class. They all whisper when it's their time to shine. And with the fan blowing, and even when I'm right beside them, I'm still having difficulty comprehending. I can't imagine how the rest of the class might feel...

Secondly, maybe they simply just don't care. I've noticed that when I actually get them up there, they don't want to stop talking. And they don't really care about what their partner in the dialogue has to say, either. They just want to hear their own voice, and look at me for validation. Cute, but we're certainly not making much progress in developing good listening skills.

During the middle of the fifth group that was performing their dialogue, I stopped them. I told one of the girls to go to the back of the classroom, and the other to stay put. They just looked at me, not understanding at first. Eventually, after my repeated "Go, go, go's!" and hand gestures toward the back wall, she understood.

For the next twenty minutes, I had a dozen or so groups perform their dialogues this way. And that finally got them talking. LOUD.

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