15 Mar Foreigner Interview Project
By: Matthew Jellick
In an effort to get outside our comfort zone of speaking English only in a classroom setting, I came up with an assignment to challenge the Staff to incorporate their speaking skills in a more authentic environment. Developing a five-point plan during class last week, I asked them to conduct a “Foreigner Interview” outside of campus, drawing on individually designed questions which incorporated both factual (Where are you from?) as well as opinionated (What do you like most about Chinese culture?) questions. This week during class, those who completed the assignment gave presentations about their interviews, sharing not only about the experience of speaking with foreigners, but in turn, what the conversation itself entailed.
Over the course of the past week, the SUSTech Staff met outside of campus with English, Canadian, American, Russian, Pakistani and even Iranian people who live and work in Shenzhen, asking them a series of five questions. Reporting back during this week’s class, they seemed excited at the notion, stating that while at first they were nervous approaching foreigners, it didn’t take long for the “interview” to become more of a “conversation”. They explained that in a Chinese sociocultural context, it is often intimidating to approach foreigners to ask questions, but quickly realized that these people had interesting stories to tell, and were honest in their answers and genuine in their approach.
Part of the assignment also included them taking a photo with their interviewee, which in turn led to stories of their own. The SUSTech Staff found their interview opportunities in various “foreigner hotspots” around town including Carrefour (the French supermarket), Starbucks (at the second one visited) and at University Town (which hosts a number of international PostDoc. programs). Through faces of accomplishment you can see the adulation in their smiles knowing that they not only completed the assignment, but more importantly gained confidence in their English skillsets, obtaining a comfort level in speaking with foreigners in an authentic setting.
With a goal to continue to find learning opportunities which extend beyond the confines of the classroom, I will continue to promote activities which challenge the staff and hopefully teach them through interactive pedagogy that authentic learning takes place in a setting which oftentimes makes them uncomfortable. Similarly, I believe that projects such as this also underline the idea that language is a part of culture which can be understood through interactions that not only increase attainment but expand worldviews.