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After the exams she felt confident that she had done well......

Early this January (2017), a friend requested me to contact a Hong Kong youngster. A young lady in a 'Band 1' secondary school - Form 3 - aged 14.

She was described to me as - 'a highly intelligent individual who was having great difficulty with her English studies'. 'Scared' and 'stressed' were key words in the initial conversation with my friend.

I arranged to meet the youngster with her mother. We met in her home and discussed her challenges. She shared her English textbooks with me. The problem immediately became clear to me. The main text book her school was using was from the USA, created for American students.  The main text book was full of American & Canadian colloquialisms. Her teacher was not explaining them to the class. An additional book of exercises had been created by an ex-pat teacher in her school, it was of very low quality.

She had exams coming up in, starting in the middle of February. The exams were going to focus on the content of approx. 12 sections of the main text book. Neither the young lady nor her classmates deeply understood the sections.

We scheduled 5 sessions before the begining of the exams - each would be of at least 90 minutes. We read the sections line-by-line, and I explained all of the vocabulary to her. We discussed baseball. We discussed the mountainous areas north of California. We discussed the internment of Japanese-Americans during WW2. We discussed examples of free verse - free from capitalization - free from punctuation. We identified more than 200 colloquialisms and kept revisiting them until she was fully comfortable using them in sentences.

Week-by-week she became more confident and visibly less stressed. She told me that she was now explaining points to several of her friends.

After the exams she felt confident that she had done well. When she received her results, they were more than 10% above her previous exams of 2016. She told me that many of her classmates had done poorly in their English exams & were deeply unhappy.

Being made to feel - scared - stressed - unhappy - etc. is unfair for any child.

An Example

......perhaps the worst exercise was one discussing a fishing trip by a young Inuit boy out on ice floes, with a team of husky dogs. It contained vocabulary which forced us to search for a Canadian Inuit Dictionary, to find the meanings of words such as aglus!

From our research -

1) Canadian Inuit Word - Aglu / Aglus

In the winter, when the ocean is covered by several feet of ice, the seals maintain breathing holes, known by the Inuit as aglu / aglus.

A drawing -

2) The Ringed Seal

The main prey of polar bears is the ringed seal—full of fat and high in calories.

In fall, a seal cuts ten to fifteen breathing holes known as aglus by Canadian Inuit) in the ice, using the sharp claws on its fore flippers.

Seals keep their breathing holes open all winter long, even in ice up to two meters (six feet) thick. They surface about every five to fifteen minutes at one of the holes or use air pockets trapped under the ice when available.

Polar bears attack by waiting for seals to breathe at the openings. They locate them with their powerful sense of smell and wait for the seals to emerge. Polar bears have to be smart and patient because the wait can be long—sometimes hours, or even days.

More - 

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