My favorite days are test days because I teach a lot less. Better even than test days are days when the oral test and the paper test are in different lessons, since I get the ease of a test day, but don’t have to grade the test. Before you turn away in disgust at my laziness and declare me unfit to be a teacher, let me try to redeem myself. Oral tests are also my favorite days because I get one-on-one time with students (two-on-one time for the higher levels).
It’s a great time for me to see how they’re doing and offer more personal encouragement and congratulations. It’s also a good time for checking and correcting pronunciation (and trying to make it stick), but sometimes, it’s just a good time for practicing my poker face.
The oral test I had on Wednesday was in my oldest normal class, whose theme for this level has been technology, which means a lot of futuristic spacecraft and food pills (as well as the atrocious “intelligent” pill). I called Jeff and Eric out as the last oral test pair, and as they looked at the prompt picture, they asked each other questions according to the forms below it. The answers were free-form, and as with anything, the more you put in, the more you get out. These two are some of the best students in the class, and when Jeff asked “What is the astroman doing?,” I knew I was going to get a good answer. Eric responded by telling us that he was repairing the spacecar, and I had to regretfully inform them that he was an astronaut and it was a spacecraft.
Those are the kind of answers I love, though: both of them understand what the word means and and are working with the compound nature of those words. If I may be technical (and possibly wrong) for a moment: they’ve grasped the morphemes and how they relate to the meaning, and when they can’t call the actual word to mind, they create a (phonetic and semantic!!) approximation. I get the feeling that this is what most of my Chinese is right now: close and logical, but not quite right.