Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Service Learning: Week 1 - Language and Communication

Language and Communication:
Working at Sao Mai where there are often many “one-day” helpers, the communication around there seems to be lacking. When I was showed to my classroom, one of the teachers was talking in Vietnamese saying how she didn’t want a non-speaking Vietnamese person in the classroom and that they should go to another classroom. However, Chi Phuong said that I could understand and speak Vietnamese so I could work there. Going into the classroom, there were 3 teachers, each with their own set of children, but the classroom overall encompasses all the children and the teachers. They get into groups and teach them things such as how to brush their teeth, wash their hands, play with toys. The communication to the children is in Vietnamese of course and the children can understand. Sitting in the separate groups, sometimes the teachers will be talking to the children, directing them, while talking to the other teachers as well. They would often sing songs with the children while they look at each other and talking about the children’s progress. The teachers communicate effectively with each other and to the children.  In cases of outsiders in the classroom, such as me, they have minimal conversations with them. They are usually told to help out by showing what they want to do instead of telling which seems to be normal since the school has a lot of non-Vietnamese speakers’ volunteers every now and then. However, during breaks and group changes, the teachers would gradually ask me questions about myself like where I’m from, my parents, school, etc.  But most of the attention was on the kids.
The language that was used in the classroom besides Vietnamese was body language. Trying to get the children to do things, the teacher would perform them first with the students mimicking them afterwards. Often, the teachers would be talking to each other about something that would sound serious, but in a happy and care-free tone as they would talk to children. They would talk to each other in the same manner they would talk to the children as a way of letting the children have a happy and understanding environment. The body language they use is always in a positive way with winks, smiles, and hugs. There are is a lot of body contact and holding of the children than I expected because I thought they wouldn’t want to coddle the children, but it doesn’t really matter I think because they are still children who need to be coddle. Hopefully in the next few weeks, I can communicate with the teachers in the same manner that they communicate with each other and integrate myself into the classroom and not just some one-time volunteer.


  1. Nancy - Isn't it interesting how the co giao's have so much patience and love to provide daily? I was really surprised at how they could keep going..
    But they never yell at the children? In my class, I was surprised at how often the teachers used serious/threatening types of voices to get students going.

    And that's also interesting that even though the students in your class are quite young they understand directions in Vietnamese!

  2. Hi Nancy.. this reminds me of the early education program I use to work at.. where the teachers/aides there were also very friendly and loving towards the children. I'm glad that you are finding the same experiences here at sao mai. I wonder what they are talking about though that is so serious..

    hopefully you can try to practice your vietnamese by slowly start talking to the children :)