just a rant

January 12, 2009 at 10:09 pm 1 comment

I am terminating my Khmer lessons. My teacher is just not sensitive enough to pronunciation to help me in the way I need. I confirmed my frustration by reading aloud an arbitrary phrase he taught me last week. He wanted to know the English meaning of what I was trying to say while I wanted to test my ability to be understood. In the end I needed to tell him the English to be understood. He feebly attempted to correct me, although he did not slow down his pace or make his sounds any clearer. I couldn’t tell an “n” sound from an “m” or an “ie” from an “on.” For a transient moment he had heard my mistakes but it lasted only long enough for him to repeat the words and thereby erase from his memory all awareness of my version of them. It was useless. After this I could repeat the sentence all I wanted and he’d tell me I was correct because he’d hear only himself. I should clarify though, he’s a volunteer not a trained teacher. I don’t feel vexed, I just prefer to do something else with my time.

Nothing successful came out of my attempts to help him and his friends find a sponsor for their dormitory. All the NGOs I emailed returned a generic response, something to the effect of that the message could not be delivered. I’ve never witnessed this kind of response before so I don’t know what to make of it. Were my emails received? At least one organization called to tell him that they could not sponsor them.

The sole Khmer and the handful of foreigners I’ve shared the story with are surprised that 32 young adults should have trouble paying $400 a month. I suppose that if the average monthly salary for menial part-time work here is $40, a rent of $12.50 is only about 1/3 which is easier to afford than the rent most New York City college students struggle to pay which amounts to half or more of their monthly salary. Upon further questioning, my teacher revealed that not all the students have financial difficulties, just some. Without essential information like this I can’t write an honest proposal. What I’ve written is questionable and unconvincing. Nor do I have any expertise about NGOs. In some emotional way I feel I’ve failed to help him, but my practical brain revolts at the idea of aiding him further. Tomorrow I’m going to give him a copy of the proposal I’ve written and the addresses of several NGOs in Phnom Penh he can deliver it to.

I’ve also decided against the typing lessons I wrote of earlier. There are many affordable computer schools already that teach typing in PP. Why should I do it? And if I did it, how? I anticipate that the students would have trouble following my diction and thereby the whole system of learning to type by typing particular letters with particular fingers would go astray.

The semester is half way through and there are only 5 weeks left. The school did an anonymous collection of student feedback and I got many positive reviews. The negative, of which there were 3, all came from the same class. They complained that I spend too much time on vocabulary and that I don’t do enough activities and games. This is the class where I have a blind student so I have avoided doing any activities which would exclude him. Perhaps I was too overbearing with my sympathies that I neglected the needs of the class. About the vocabulary, I disagree. I spend only half the lesson discussing new words and despite the drilling and sentence making the students still don’t understand some of the words by the end of the lesson. In general, I find teaching more exhausting than I did at the beginning. I started the semester by hardly planning my lessons, and now, with the pressure to play more games coming from one class (which I consequently generalize to be the desire of all my classes) and the additional task of making cassette tapes with vocabulary for my blind student, I need to plan for over an hour. This is a stressful task for a girl (haha) who is accustomed to indefinites and improvising!


Entry filed under: travel. Tags: , , , , .

table matters Sometimes we go…

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. dina  |  January 20, 2009 at 3:52 am

    Khmer lessons! I am sure it is awfully complicated!


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