This Material’s Not Too Hard To Grasp

, , , | Learning | March 8, 2021

I am an American teaching English in China. During this hour, I am teaching a class of students in one of the upper levels for the seven- to ten-year-olds. At this level, they can have some intermediate-level conversations but nothing too in-depth. This unit, they are learning about different materials and describing them — i.e. “It’s made of metal,” and, “It isn’t sparkly enough.”

I’m going over the material vocabulary by showing them some items. I hold up one of my boots.

Me: “It’s made of leather.”

Class: “It’s made of leather.”

I hold up a coin.

Me: “It’s made of metal.”

Class: “It’s made of metal.”

Since they seem to have a good grasp of the grammar point and the assigned vocabulary, I decide to throw in an extra term for them.

I pick up one student’s backpack.

Me: “It’s made of nylon.”

Student: “What’s nylon?”

Unfortunately, a lot of students in China are afraid to express confusion and will often pretend they understand something when they don’t. I decide on a whim to test if that is happening here, so in my best EFL teacher voice, I say…

Me: “It’s a synthetic petroleum-based polymer.”

The student gives me a forced smile and nods.

Student: “Oh.”

I chuckle and take pity on her for that and I break my no-Chinese rule to tell her what nylon means.

Me: “Nílóng.”

The student’s eyes light up with understanding.

Student: “Oh, nílóng! Nylon!”

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