Ali visited my training workshop today to snap a few pictures but found it hard to catch me motionless. This picture was the best, with only one arm flapping up and down at high speed. I'll have to slow down....

The trainees are into their second day of full-on activities and are already coping better with the methods and requirements of the course. I'm trying my best to keep the structure of each session simple and logical, with key points written on the BB and translated into Chinese by the participants themselves. Nevertheless, some teachers are concerned that English is a barrier (even if they are all English teaachers) and gets in the way of them understanding. After doing this work for over four years however, I don't believe this is as big aThe main challenge for most teachers is their study habits. Even when instructions are given in Chinese (all tasks have been translated into Chinese in the workbook) and they have a clear model, many teachers find it difficult to fully complete the tasks - mainly because almost all the tasks involve thinking and reflecting. These are new study skills for many of the particicpants. It's convenient to say, "I can't do it because my English is so poor" but it's an easy way out that reflects the learning culture.  The fact is, I speak very little English in class and when I do it's usuallly instructions or simple questions, which I offer in Chinese if participants show signs of confusion! My response to the "my English is very poor" statement is: "If you don't understand, say so"; "If you don't understand, think about it more or discuss it with your partner"; "If you don't understand, ask the trainer to repeat the point or give a model." The difficulty the trainees have with asking a trainer to repeat something, or saying, "I don't understand" may well be culturally rooted. To put it simply, it's a cultural taboo to publically point out a teacher's weaknesses - and that is how a question might be interpreted. It might be like saying: "I don't understand because you are a bad teacher". Secondly, it may be taken as a sign of the trainee's own weakness or failing, like saying: "Look at me, I'm so stupid I can't understand what she means". So, if trainees don't understand, they tend to just sit and wait for someone else to tell them the answer, or for the trainer to write it on the blackboard. Another problem is habit. After 10+ years in education and similar leader-centred work environments, many teachers don't know how to cooperate, how to discuss and work together. Very often, when asked to have a group discussion, they sit and scribble away in their workbooks on their own. Making sure everyone understands is certainly a challenge, but only a small part of that is about the verbal language although this is always the excuse they fall back on. It's about culture, about habits, about attitudes, about behaviour. What really matters is what we do with the language, the context in which we use it, the part we play in trying to understand and trying to be understood. I'm trying my best to make this process as easy and effective as possible. This afternoon I'll have a chat to the participants about what THEY need to do to be more active learners.

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