I have a travel mug that was given to me as a gift at my last school. It has Chinese characters on it, so it was with some nervousness that I carried it into class for the first time here. Last week a couple of my Chinese students asked where I got it. I said it was a gift and asked them what it said. It’s a poem, but it’s hard to translate. It’s about tea, spring, poetry, and the moon. The poem is comprised of eight characters, and to touch on all that, one concludes Chinese is a richly expressive language.
My own language learning has stalled somewhat under the weight of grading assignments, writing solutions keys, and keeping my frustration with passive students in check. Passive is a word one of my colleagues used, and it fits well, I think. I think many of my students expect that sitting in class and making notes should be good enough, and that working on a single problem, especially if it is not so simple it’s obvious, is too much. I’ve begun to call on students and send them to the board. Given how late it is in the semester, I’m sure it’s obvious to at least some of them that I’m frustrated. And from that perspective it feels like a punishment. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s terrible that they know they aren’t stacking up. If they want a passive lecture, they can go to UGA and sit in a 200 student lecture hall. If they can get into UGA.
But to come back to languages, it’s frustrating to not be able to practice as much as I’d like. My German progress has stalled a little and I’m just trying to hold my Italian where it is. I am going to Atlanta for a wine tasting hosted by the Goethe Center next weekend. I’m pretty excited for that, and also just to be exposed to people with similar interests. The dearth of intellectualism in Macon is suffocating.