Right now my 5th year university students are taking a test. It's interesting because very time I give a test for the first time students are constantly talking and sharing information about the text. They think I don't understand what they're saying but I understand a lot more Russian than I can say. I gave the students all the vocabulary to study the night before and explained the format of the test so they knew EXACTLY what to for the test. When I gave them the test I told them to write their name first. Their questions were "Should we write our surname?" and I said yes because it will go to the director. Then they asked if they should write their group number. Yes, okay, write your group number too. Then the questions were "Miss Sharon do you want a one word answer?" I tell them to read the directions that say "Write the meaning of the word." Student says, "Yes, but how many words?" I patiently say "As many words as it takes to get the meaning across." Then a student asks "Miss Sharon do you want a synonym of word?" I explain again "The directions say to write the meaning of the word. The meaning is the definition."
Before I gave them the test I had them separate their desks. This is the first test they've taken with me so they're not familiar with my style and they don't know that I've been called "Strong like man" for my disciplinary style. These girls haven't seen that side of me yet and this is the first test they've taken with me and will be the first grade they get from me. It really doesn't matter what grade "I" give them. My tests are only for me to test their knowledge but they take a BIG test at the end of the semester that they must pass. If they don't pass then they can pay their way to a "pass" grade. I heard of a Tajik girl who hasn't graduated from the university, but paid for her degree so she could go to the U.S. to study in a few weeks. That's actually normal here. That is how I get 5th year students (this is a 5 year university) who don't understand when I ask them they're name or how they're weekend was. These students have their good friends translate my questions to them, then they answer in Russian, and they're good friend tells me what the girl said. I suppose this is good practice in translation for the good friends.
I've shocked the shit out of these girls with everything being in English!! To them this isn't how it's supposed to be, but they'll learn and be just fine in the end! :-)
****The ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and are not in any way connected to the views of the United States Department of State nor the English Language Fellow Program. *****