English Corner

If you ever wondered what it’s like to be a celebrity, all you need to do is head to China and be a native English speaker at a Chinese university’s English Corner. An English Corner is where people go to practice their English–picture a few hundred people in a park all having conversations using whatever English they know. It’s a pretty nifty setup if you’re trying to learn another language since it forces you to practice speaking in that language. In any case, if you’re a native speaker you’re going to be in high demand. I spent two hours hanging out talking to people, trying to avoid answering questions about my opinion of Chinese politics, answering lots of questions about American politics, and talking about how Florida is very hot most of the year. It gives you more than a bit of an ego boost to be in high demand, at least until you remember that people aren’t interested because you’re inherently awesome, you could be any random American and they’d still be interested because of the accident of where you were born and the language you speak. It’s kind of fun to feel like a celebrity for a few hours though.

On a completely different note, before English Corner I went to a student keyboard orchestra concert with the Chinese student that’s in our Contracts class. I didn’t know that a keyboard orchestra was a thing, but they were quite talented. The program was mostly themes from American and French movies with some other pop music mixed in, including two girls playing a keytar version of “Billie Jean” while a guy did a Michael Jackson impersonation. I didn’t know that keytar was still a thing, but I guess that little bit of the ’80s lives on in China. Oh, and there were also a number of accordion performances; the students playing accordion did things with the instrument that I didn’t know were possible, and I was seriously impressed with the music they were able to produce with just accordions. The Lawrence Welk show it certainly was not.

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