Monday, 28 March 2011

Skype Class with Jio Tong University, Shangahi

It was just another Monday afternoon spent studying at TAMK for our IB10 group, although something was different this time – everyone was having fun. Usually having fun when studying would indicate heavy intoxication in Finland, but in this case it was due to an interesting worldwide experience: Skype conversations with Chinese students. The class was arranged by Kerstin Borau from Jio Tong University, Shanghai and Mike Garant and Fulbright Professor Bryan Beamer from TAMK

Our class already had one Skype session a week earlier where we formed student groups for the Skype calls, received discussion topics for the next lesson and met the group contacts. Every group got to know their own Chinese contacts a bit for the next Skype meeting, so everyone could have a conversation with someone they already knew about the given discussion topics.

Things just didn’t work out as planned: Our contacts performed a ‘Chinese fire drill’ with the contact groups, so no one really knew who they were talking to since the groups were all mixed up. So instead of having discussions about the given topics, we got to know the new contacts and just had some casual conversations about hobbies, studying, working and everything possible from cultural differences to daily life.

The skill gap of speaking and writing English between us and the Chinese was bigger than expected. We couldn’t always tell what they meant, mostly due to their smaller vocabulary. Interacting with real contacts from China was helpful as an exercise on how to understand people who are not completely capable of producing correct English. When interacting with such people the most important thing is to understand sentences as a whole instead of getting stuck on some ‘silly’ word. Even though it didn’t feel like we were studying at all, it’s for certain that everyone learned from the experience and can communicate more efficiently (and correctly) with the Chinese.

By Toni Taupila

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