October 2020 Bobcat Blog

Qian Zhang–Mandarin Teacher
October 6, 2020

When I was a student, I dreamed that I could speak English fluently. Because I thought English could help me to open another door to the world. I worked very hard and learned tons of vocabulary and grammar rules. However, after almost 23 years of learning and having been through so many tests, I still felt horrible about my daily communications when I arrived in the United States. I realized that even though I worked so hard to learn English, I had never really used it.

When I started to teach Mandarin, helping my students feel comfortable and confident in communicating in Mandarin are the core values of my teaching. As indicated in Krashen’s second language acquisition theory, there are two ways of developing language ability (https://www.sk.com.br/sk-krash-english.html). The acquisition involves the subconscious acceptance of knowledge where information is stored in the brain through communication; this is the process used for developing native languages. On the other hand, learning is the conscious acceptance of knowledge ‘about’ a language (i.e., the grammar or form). According to this theory, the optimal way to learn a new language is through natural communication. As a second language teacher, the idea is to create a situation wherein language is used to fulfill authentic purposes. Therefore, speaking in the new language will help students ‘acquire’ the language instead of just ‘learning’ it.

In language acquisition, a hypothetical filter is influenced by emotional variables that can prevent learning. The ‘screen’ does not impact acquisition directly but rather prevents input from reaching the brain’s language acquisition part. According to Krashen, the affective filter is influenced by many different variables, including anxiety, self-confidence, motivation, and stress (https://www.sk.com.br/sk-krash-english.html). In any aspect of education, it is always essential to create a safe, welcoming environment in which students can learn. In language education, a comfortable environment is especially important since, to take in and produce language, learners need to feel that they can make mistakes and take risks. I am also a language learner while teaching a language. I love it when my students help me with English, so they are not worried about making my class mistakes.

Reading is another excellent way to learn languages. It allows students to learn and to reinforce vocabulary. For second language acquisition, it is vital to involve reading in the language classroom to increase knowledge of the language and how it is used in real-life contexts (https://www.sk.com.br/sk-krash-english.html). Creativity, activity, service (CAS) is one of the three core elements of the IB Diploma Program (https://www.ibo.org/programmes/diploma-programme/curriculum/creativity-activity-and-service/). The IB language acquisition curriculum is based on specific real-life contexts. During language learning, students can also enhance intercultural understanding.

Here at WAPrep, singing, drawing, handwriting, reading, group conversations, and presentations allow students to enjoy learning

Mandarin by using it!



Schütz, Ricardo E. (2019). Stephen Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition. English made in Brazil Http://www.sk.com.br/sk-krash.html. Online.




El día de los muertos; Celebrating Life on the Day of the Dead

by Sephy Elizai


As a child, I saw the ins and outs of Día de los muertos around me because it wasn’t a holiday we observed at home. Part of my family would go to the cemetery and clean the tombstones of our relatives. They would bring pan muerto (bread of the dead) home with them, and I would happily devour it with a cup of hot chocolate, which I remember the brand was Chocolate Abuelita. “That lady (the lady on the picture of the hot chocolate box) was already old when I was a boy.” Said my Dad. “She should be dead by now.” We would all laugh, doña Sara García was indeed an old lady, and it seemed as if she had always been old. She is an icon of Mexican cinema, and I firmly believe the world is a better place because she lived in it.

El día de los muertos has always been a colorful and festive occasion. It’s a time when we hear stories of relatives we may or may not have met. It is a time when we listen to old music and talk about who is named after somebody and how your cousin looks so much like tío Pepe, and here is a picture of tio Pepe, and sure enough, I thought it was my cousin in a black and white image. It’s a holiday where laughter and songs are heard, where special food is tasted, and where the children recite morbid yet funny poetry of people’s deaths. No one is scared or cries. Everyone celebrates the interweaving of our stories. Our stories are a part of a chain that leads us back to our ancestors, which will lead us into our children’s lives and our legacy.

Here, in the present, COVID aside, we have no time to sit and tell stories. We have no time to dig through recipes and pictures stored in old shoe boxes. We no longer work to live but rather live to work. We take no time because time is money, and we live no lives because we’ve got to get busy doing more and more. And yet, now, more than ever, we need to take the time to breathe, remember where we come and the people from which we come. We need to be our Selves to leave a message of who we were to our children and define our legacy. I am a teacher by vocation and by profession, yes.  I am also a poet, a traveler, a friend, a son, a brother, a proud uncle to four beautiful human beings, and a person who likes to set aside time to be idle, to feel, to mourn and grieve, and to be happy.

El día de los muertos tells us how we, like our lives, are only temporary. It reminds us to celebrate the life that we have and to celebrate the lives of the many others who have come before us.



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