Total Physical Response

on Thursday, 11 February 2010
I pride myself as being the only avenue of some people to speak English to.

I am absolutely stubborn when it comes to the language I use amongst my students. Almost all the time, I deliberately speak to my colleagues in Malay immediately after having a tough conversation in English with a student right in front of the student. It is to show them that I deliberately do not want to use Malay when I speak to them. You want my help, you need my assistance, you're going to have to listen to me speak in English even if you are not going to speak it.

What if I need their help? What if there are things that absolutely need their immediate reaction, comprehension and response?

Is it still possible that I get what I want by making it hard for students to communicate with me?

For the past 3 days, I've been going through sports (Yeah, three days. Not 1 day like in the Peninsula). Being involved in numerous activities in these few days, my students are always in my disposal. I need them to intuitively assist me and follow my instructions to the dot to make certain events successful.

I found it very difficult to convey simple messages i.e:

"Get the leader of the marching contingent to come here," 

"Have you gotten everyone to come here?"

"Tell Cikgu Hartini to get the girls food and drinks,"

"Do not wait for people to call you. You see and guess(should be 'judge' but it's too hard) if you need to help out. Don't just sit there waiting!"

Each sentence above had to be repeated numerous times, with action, facial expressions, extremely kiddy gestures and of course, the involvement of the Malay language. The real conversations are really:

"Have you panggil orang?"

"Mana (with the universal hand gesture of 'where') Cikgu Hartini? Still not beri (while gesturing hands moving out as though feeding) food and drinks to girls? (pointing to the girls)"

"You must faster (with the running action) tolong dia (with the action of cuddling a baby while pointing at the fainted boy). Don't, jangan tunggu (repeated twice with the hand waving in a crossed manner frantically) he faint (while giving the facial expression of fainting) then only you get up tolong,"

Sadly, most of the time, my instructions and my methods of giving information in English are like that. There is never a time where I'm not physically painting out the picture, not showing them a facial expression of sadness or anger while mentioning a word with that connotation and not waving my hands around as though I'm inventing a new version of 'hand signaling'... which is something I'm gradually learning from my 'special education' teacher slash housemate.

There is unfortunately no other way that I can convey my messages effectively without those mentioned strategies. I've tried writing down instructions (in class lessons), I've tried giving visual clues (i.e. pictures or pointing to a related object) but it doesn't beat the complete rendition of a mime when I'm speaking in English to my students. From a 3rd person's point of view, it looks like I'm acting like a fool or overreacting about something that seems to petty... which is understandable. I can understand that a teacher would think:

"Adrian tu tengah buat apa? Padahal nak minta budak tu ambil barang je, macam nak buat banyak aksi je..."

Unfortunately, I think, it's a necessary evil that I'll have to live with.


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