Sunday, 29 May 2011

Chinese Ballet

I am going to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre on June 9th to see the ballet "The Last Emporer" - but today I have been watching videos of Chinese Dancing.  Since reading the book "Mao's Last Dancer" and seeing the movie several times, I have learned so much about the wonderful training and quality of dance in China. 

Many readers will be familiar with the iconic ballet "Swan Lake" - watch the video below and see how the Chinese do it.

The following video is of the "Dance of the Red Lantern" performed in Amsterdam, Netherlands,
and is a wonderful exhibiton of combing Chinese culture with ballet.  It is a long video.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Learning a Language

I was fortunate in that at school I learned Latin for 3 years, as well as French.  Latin has helped me with my own language (English), as well as French and at times Spanish.  When I was at school we had an Australian teacher, who may have been to France.  I can't remember.  All we had was the teacher, and our books.  No film or video in the classroom in those days, and no recording of any sought.  We learned by speaking loudly and repeating, and repeating.

After I left school I learned Italian at classes held in the Adelaide University.  As it turns out I've not had to use my language skills and they have all but gone, though I understand when I hear these languages spoken.

When I went to China I did for almost two semesters, learn Chinese (Mandarin), but I bailed out when the conversation learning was too difficult for me, and not only that the conversation we were supposed to be learning was not particularly useful for me at that time.  That was in 2008, and oddly enough we did learn by repeating, and we also had the use of voice recordings.

What a difference from language learning now, from my yearly learning days.  And to be able to learn at one's own pace either with a CD program or online.  I am keen to rejuvenate my Italian a little, and I don't mind brushing up on my Chinese from time to time.  However, I know if you don't 'use it' you may well 'lose it' so much of what I have learned is fading from my memory.

Still, I found a site yesterday and am working through some of the free lessons.  The introductory lessons go for 6 days, and after that one would have to pay.  Not me, or not at the moment as I would be determined to work on it if I paid, and I'm not in the mood to do so at the moment.

However, I do suggest, that the program on this site - Rocket Languages.  Of course there are many programs on the Internet, so it would be worth doing some research through Google.

There would also be quite a few on Youtube, and probably for no cost too.  I found these lessons with Yangyang. 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

New blog for 31 Day Blogging Challenge

I decided to create a new blog for this challenge.  It is called Movies, Books and Life.  Click here to visit the new site. 

Cheating at IELTS

Those of us who have worked and lived in Asian countries will know that many people in Asia have a different attitude to 'cheating' than we do in the west.  To cheat in exams in China - well, many do it, and often with the support of their teachers and the university hierarchy. 

This example may help you understand.  I found that 6 of my students in one class did not understand English but I was not told.  When I found out, I spoke to the Vice Proncipal (that is what it said on his door), and he told me to treat these boys the same as I would any other students. Mmm.  It was impossible as they didn't understand what I was asking of them, and in a class of 45 students for 45 minutes there was not a lot of time.  I did offer to help students who were having challenges as an extra curricular activity but these boys did not attend.

At the mid semester test, they failed.  Each handing in their paper, without anything written on it. Most could not even write their name in English.  Sadly I had no choice but to give them '0' for their tests.  When it came to the end of semester test, I was not permitted to either supervise or mark the tests.  And surprisingly the six students passed with flying colours!!!

In Australia in recent times there has been some skulduggery in Western Australia, and the newspaper reports of a staff member of Curtin University helping students pass.  IELTS ( International English Language Testing System) is the acknowledged system for testing English language proficiency and it is required to pass to a certain level for university study in Australia, UK, and other English speaking countries.  There are alternatives, but IELTS is probably the one requiring the highest proficiency.

Several of those involved will face court in the next couple of weeks in Perth, and clearly there will be dire consequences, and it is possible that Curtin University will no longer hold IELTS tests.  You can read more on this story here.

I remember when I was in South Korea, the participants in th course were required to have an IELTS score of 6.5, but the administrators 'waived' that requirement, but as it was an Australian certificate that they were studying for, they had to produce their IELTS results in order to receive their certificate.  One of the students could bearly speak any English!  But the South Koreans did not see that as important!!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

31 Day Blog Challenge

I purchased the ProBlogger ebook some time ago, but didn't do anything with it.  Didn't even find time to read much of it, but I've 'dragged it out' and read at least the first 20 pages, and I know I can do it.  I am hoping that I can increase my readership and perhaps earn a small income from by blog adventures.

The guy behind ProBlogger is Darren Prowse, and he hails from Victoria, Australia and is making a good income from his ventures.

So 31Day Blog Challenge here I come.  If you want to participate you can click on the banner above or click here to register.

Sky Burial

Reference to 'Sky Burial' comes up in Xinran's books.  At first it doesn't make sense, but when you learn what she is referring to, it makes sense.    I've yet to read this one of Xinran's books, but I have read references to it in a number of places.  You can read about the book 'Sky Burial' which she wrote in 2004 here.

The video below may seem a little macabre at first thought, but I like the line at the end.  When we are dead, we are dead.  If you are buried underground worms take your bits away.  I like the idea of the sky burial, although we don't have such birds to do the deed here.  Maybe the crows will take the bits away.

What the Chinese think of the west.

I know that when you take off to live and work in China, or even visit, there is some research to do, but mostly we  work out some simple basic cultural norms, and then deal with things like currency, geography, and all things about touring in the country.  My research before I went was minimal - for a start I had a very short period between the time when the idea was 'put in my head' and when I left, so I was more concerned with the documents and paperwork for the job and the visa, and practicalities. 

In any case if I had read much about the culture it would not have 'sunk in' because you have to experience it.  I have said, that everything I though I knew, I no longer knew.  "Nothing" appeared to be the same in China as I had known in Australia (or my other travels).  It is impossible to explain, and you probably don't understand until you have been in China for a while, or alternatively had a traditional Chinese person spend time with you in Australia.

It is through reading Xinran's books that I am making sense of some of the things I experienced in China.  I have read several of her books, and the latest one, which I have on my Kindle, is "What the Chinese don't eat" written in 2006.  If you watch any of the Customs shows on television, you will know that the bane of the life of the folks in Customs is the strange foodstuffs that Chinese bring into Australia, and usually deny that they are carrying food.  They take awesome quantities because they believe that in Australia (or whatever country is their destination) they will not be able to buy fresh food, or any food that resembles that which they are familiar with from their home.

When I went to China I did take some food - not much - but a tube of Vegemite was in my luggage.  Small supplies compared to what Chinese pack.

In Australia we cannot buy live fish, for example, but to counter this, Chinese bring big swags of dried fish.  Certainly we get freshly caught fish, but apart from crabs, they are well dead.  Fresh, but dead.

Our meats are treated in a far more hygienic method than in China.  I remember seeing the meat markets, with no refrigeration, plenty of flies, and surrounded by streets, people, and a lot lot more.  Unlike the more pristine venue of our butcher shops.  We can buy very fresh vegetables, and we can buy 'off the farm' if we live close to market gardens.

Last year when 2 students from China came to Australia, I had warned them not to bring any foodstuffs and I explained it well, but the father of one of the girls knew better.  Why, I don't know.  He was a wealthy man,  had not travelled, but he 'knew' that you could bring animal and vegetable products into Australia.  I warned Rita, 'be prepared for it to be taken away from you', and make sure you declare it.  Her father said that was stupid.  Luckily she did declare it, and as I expected it was taken from her.  She was distraught when I picked her up at the airport, but I took her in to Brisbane's Valley Chinatown,and she found the strange health things that she had had confiscated.  She could easily buy them from a Chinese medicine man here.  The girls found that most of the foodstuffs they were familiar with were available here in Australia, and they managed to find their way around our supermarkets or fresh food markets without any problems.

Xinran's book explains so many other differences and why.  So much of the culture in China goes back to very early years in their history, and other parts of their culture was shaped by the Cultural Revolution, and the Chinese are still finding their own culture, but now the young people are embracing western culture to the exclusion of their own countries long history and culture.  Sad, but true.

When looking for the link for Vegemite, I came across this video - of an old commercial for Vegemite.  I wonder what the Chinese would think of this.  (My students did not like the taste of Vegemite!)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Teaching teachers and seeking students - and The Edge

I've spent the last few weekends at classes for International TESOL College - more as an observer than anything else, though did do some of the work.  I MAY have to take such classes at some stage, so was interested to see how the classes were run.  I don't know that many of the students of the course were planning to go overseas, but they certainly will be well prepared for tutoring in Australia, which is what a couple of them wish to do.

I also explored some websites and put my name 'out there' as an ESL tutor, registering on a website, and having found a potential student on another website sent an email, but nothing has resulted yet.

Today I went into the city - actually to the State Library at the cultural precinct on the south side of the river.  I had booked in for a session on "Monogamy" - true, and it was very funny.  However, I wandered around the Library and visited the Flood exhibition, where people put up ideas that might help to prevent so much damage in a future one, and generally explored.  I haven't been to the State Library for a long time.

I found "The Edge" - it is essentially between the Queensland Art Gallery and the State Library, but it is a space where young people (I laughed at that, as one of their regulars is 82 years young) explore all things digital.  There was an exhibition of items used to broadcast music - and I had to laugh as I can remember things that we used BEFORE any of the 'old' things on display.  I had quite a chat with a young fellow there.  I was rather in awe of things in the area, especially the  opportunity for prospective film makers, musicians and photographers to use.  I have a pile of literature to wade through.

I was going to go to another event, or go to the Greek Festival, but on leaving I was struck by an awful pain in my foot.  I sat in the garden and took my sock off to see a damaged toenail, so I chickened out of more walking and decided to walk across the bridge to the city, go to the library (Why did I get so many heavy books!), went into the Mall and Target and bumped into a friend from some time ago, and we chatted. 

I headed back through the Mall (Oh, I missed the heavy rain too), to the bus stop and returned to the house at Paddington.