Lectures and lessons

I’m writing this time to celebrate the resurrection of the internet connection in my room. I almost thought it was hopeless and I would have to spend 15,000 VND every time I need to access wifi in internet cafe. My blogging halted for several days, and it caused me a lot of distress and anxiety.

The second clause of the sentence preceding this is not at all true, but just quite.

A college friend wrote a short article about me, which he said, will be published in Panay News, the news paper that claims to have the biggest circulation in the Visayas, which I used to worked with for a short time while teaching in the University of the Philippines Visayas. I shall be posting the article here after I’ve asked due permission from Prince Golez, the writer of the article.

For most of the time, we tend to look at something very shallowly. I just arrived from an English class teaching Vietnamese students. In one of the activities, I showed them pictures which they will describe, express what they feel when they see the picture, and make a rough generalization on the meaning of the pictures. I warned them, however, that some of the pictures might be quite graphic, violent, or could contain nudity. But of course I had to explain and, in some cases, demonstrate what each word means.

The act can be quite taxing on my knowledge and understanding not just of the structure of the language but most of the time its myriad subtleties – those that remain unsaid but is more important than the actual speech itself. Nonetheless, seeing satisfaction and understanding on my students’ eyes means I was successful in my attempt, or something close to that.

Vietnamese students are not very loquacious. They attend their classes expecting the teachers to do all the talking and thinking of themselves as sheer repository of knowledge, but I always remind them that learning should be interactive and a two-way process and for them to speak the language, they have to use the language.

Below are the pictures I showed them which I downloaded from the web.


Usain Bolt’s magic moment. The world’s fastest man donning a face only a victor can aptly express. The discussion was however very mundane. We differentiated the general word running from the more specific marathon running, sprinting, and jogging.


This Nike ad is a story on politics and the emergence of China as a force to reckon with not only in the economic sphere but in international political affairs.


This picture was the most disturbing for them: seeing a vulture waiting for an African child to die.


A picture during Vietnam War where a general from the south of Vietnam was about to shoot a spy. The face of the man about to be shot was so horrifying that people quetioned whether this one desrved to be printed on the pages of daily papers. It did get published.


The actor Tom Hanks in one of the saddest pictures I have seen so far. Sometimes I question the rationale of this activity. Showing them the best and the worst of humanity just so they use English in their work, in school, or in their careers in the future isn’t a reason enough to subject them to all these miseries.


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