The older generation were fixated on the idea of learning conversation.
“Have you done your homework?” I asked.
“Yesterday, my work very busy – go to see client,” replied my student.
“Yesterday, you were very busy because you went to see a client, yes? Past tense of go is went, past tense of is…” hold on he didn’t even use the be verb, I thought but anyway, “past tense of is, is ‘was.’” Besides he had had one week to do his homework so what did it have to do with yesterday?
“Yes, yesterday, because I go see client, I very busy.”
“I think we need to do some grammar practice, concentrate on making our sentences more accurate. I give you a verb and you give me a past tense sentence.”
“I know past tense. I want study conversation.”
“This is conversation,” I said.
One of the problems of trying to keep a busy schedule was this kind of student. I had an empty slot on a Tuesday night and had taken an adult student against my better judgment. I didn’t like to teach adults because: classes were slow, they didn’t learn as fast as kids, and, most importantly, when they kept making the same mistake or didn’t do their homework, you just had to smile sweetly, because they were adults after all. Adults could be broken down further: housewives, students and women in general came to learn. This type of student was the worse kind: male, forties, businessman; they were always late, never did their homework, and invariably wanted to study conversation. This was the great buzzword that got adult Taiwanese flocking into schools by the thousands handing over their hard earned cash: ‘You studied writing and grammar in schools so all you need is a chance to practice. We will get you a foreign teacher for conversation,’ went the sales pitch. Unfortunately, they had only learnt how to write ok grammar. Their terrible bad habits when they spoke could only be ironed out by relearning the rules and oral practice, something they were convinced was unnecessary.
“So what does your company do?”
“My company sell car brake.”
“Your company sells car brakes. Who do you sell to? Where are your clients from?”
“Many client! Yesterday, they come from Japanese.”
“You have many clients. Yesterday’s clients were from Japan. Japan is the country, Japanese is the person.”
“Okay…uh…yesterday, we go…” It was going to be a long evening, as usual.
After class I made up my mind to give the student to Eric, who enjoyed teaching adult conversation classes; no preparation, sitting and watching the clock teaching.