November 26, 2007

The Russian Dissident

Filed under: China,culture — Kim @ 3:34 pm

In my lower-intermediate class at my private school today I had a new student in the class, a Russky. A softly spoken Russian woman with an oriental tilt to her Caucasian features and a silky Slavic lilt to her English. She’s spent 18 years in China (including the first 12 years of her life) and so her Chinese is fluent of course.

Nice to have a bit of variety, I thought, and the rest of the group (8 Han Chinese) was quite curious about her and asked her a few questions at the beginning (including “Where is Russia?”) and so that used up some time nicely and then we went on to do some typical TEFL exercises about our topic for the day, “likes and dislikes”.

The task was to choose a few things you really like and then ask your partner about their opinion of it. The guy sitting next to the Russian liked CCTV5 and so he asked her “Do you like CCTV5 ?” “No, I don’t watch CCTV” she replied, and her partner looked a bit baffled.

For my part my curiosity was piqued by this rare display of non-conformity and I asked her why not. “Because it is bad art and propaganda” she replied, and immediately made my day. (You might think propaganda is a pretty impressive word for a lower-intermediate student and indeed it would be for a Chinese, but the Russian for propaganda is the same…пропаганда)

I miss this kind of thinking I must admit. China is great in all sorts of ways but irony and cynicism and artistic discrimination/fussiness are much harder to come by here.

And CCTV is pretty dire. Do you want to know more?


  1. What a breath of fresh air last week when I had a 50 year-old Brazilian pilot in my Intermediate level class. He’s based in Shenzhen and sent by the airline to brush up on his English. Didn’t give the proverbial rat’s ass about “face” (or even sensitivity, for that matter!) However, he was able to introduce comments and topics as a STUDENT that I, as a teacher, would be very, very wary of approaching. Tsquare, censorship, torture (formerly quite common in Brazil), etc. all came up. His classmates had not a clue what to make of him. Wonder if they saw the bird feathers coming out of my mouth… 😉

    Comment by canrun — November 28, 2007 @ 10:41 am

  2. Hell again canrun! Nice anecdote and more proof that Chinese could really do with a lot more exposure to non-Chinese views.

    But what was that bit about bird feathers? Baffled me there I’m afraid.

    Comment by Kim — November 29, 2007 @ 2:53 pm

  3. Must be an American thing…

    Comment by canrun — November 30, 2007 @ 11:59 am

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