On Monday afternoons, I meet with two Chinese women who are students at the University of Cincinnati. We meet at the Panera near campus. They couldn’t be more different and still be the same nationality.
Yesterday was the fourth time I’ve met with Ziyan (tsee-yahn). She tells Americans her name is Tracy because that’s easier for them to understand. Me, too, but I’m trying to call her by her Chinese name. I think it would be hard never to be called by your own name. (Though some Americans butcher my name–Latina, Lantana, Larita, Laneta….)
She took her first two years of college in China and is a junior at UC. She says that college in China was harder than here, but she is learning more here. Why? Because in China, the only test for the semester is the final. So students do not study much during the semester; they just cram before the final exam and then promptly forget what they studied. Here, because she is tested several times during the semester, she retains more.
She is lively and eager to learn. We share our lives and work on her pronunciation. When she reads a passage from Luke, she can summarize the story as well as I could. That’s a challenge for me compared to teaching in other countries. Naturally her English is better than our readers in Brazil, Thailand, or Malaysia, for example, because she had to pass the Toefl, an internationally recognized English proficiency test, to be admitted to the university.
I had my first lesson with Xuan (shoo-waan) yesterday. I’d decided that since I was driving to UC anyway, I might as well pick up someone on the waiting list. Xuan is working on her Master’s degree in accounting. Oddly enough, she said she chose that because she isn’t great at math and accounting doesn’t involve much math.
Xuan has been married for 5 years and is 37. She just joined her husband here last fall, but he has been working at UC for most of their married life. He loves America and doesn’t want to leave, so she is adjusting to life here. Both women are quite talkative, so we never have silence. With them, I have no problem making sure they talk at least 50% of the time. In fact, I have to interrupt to get to the lesson.
Whereas Ziyan accepts everything we read in Luke and is very interested, Xuan has had more experience with Christianity and has deeper questions. In that very first lesson, which is just the introduction to Luke (Luke 1:1-4), she said she has questions about what she’s heard when she visited the Chinese Christian church. She said she wants to know why we are all sinners and why we are blamed for so much. Hmmmm….. My feeble explanation was that some preachers stress sin and condemnation and some stress love, mercy, and grace, but all is in the Bible. I’ll have to invite her to Central when I know Steve is preaching the latter, which he most often does.
These women are both eager to improve their English pronunciation, but most of all to talk to Americans. As Xuan said, “Even though my professors are Americans and many of my classmates, I don’t actually talk with them beyond asking a question in class. When I shop, I don’t talk with the people there. I just pay and leave.” It’s interesting to me that she is literally eager to talk to Americans more than to converse, for she hardly gave me a chance to talk. Of course I asked questions about her life, and she gave detailed answers. She was easy to understand, even with her strong Chinese accent.
Ziyan cannot come to our International Friendship Party Friday night, but Xuan and her husband Cai will come. I told her she would have ample opportunity to talk to Americans there! Right now, I have responses to indicate 25 Americans and 10 readers. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
We know we are seed planters. God’s people help people–that’s what we’re here for. And as we help these people with their English, the seed that is the Word of God is planted. We know the story from Lesson 11, Luke 8:4-15. Some seed falls on the road, or rocky ground, or among the thorns, but some falls on good soil. We are not here to judge, but only to plant. God will give the increase when the seeds fall on good soil.
The question we ask during this lesson is “What kind of soil are you?” I will be interested to hear my readers’ answers, for by the time we have had ten lessons together about Jesus, they will have an idea about themselves and the Word.