Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Audrey Chou

Chou, Audrey
Stralow, Terri
Date of Interview: 
Cultural idenitification
Audrey Chou talks about English language learning.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Terri Stratlow interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
TS (Terri L. Stralow): Here we go, OK, should I test it and make sure ( )? Testing one, two, three, four, OK, now it's on, OK. Tell me your name first of // all. //
AC (Audrey Chou): // Um, // Audrey Chou. Do you want to spell it?
TS: No-.
AC: // [Laughs] //
TS: // -It's OK. // [Laughter]
TS: OK, and tell me where you're from?
AC: Uh, I'm from Taiwan. It's a very, very small island [laughs] in the Pacific Ocean [laughs].
TS: OK. And you're here at, in Charlotte?
AC: // Uh-huh. //
TS: // For // what purpose?
AC: Uh, I'm studying, uh, for my Master's degree in elementary education. Uh, it's currently my second year, hopefully, hopefully, I will get graduated this May. Yeah.
TS: // [Laughs] //
AC: // Hopefully, really. //
TS: I was planning on graduating this May, but it won't work, because I have one class left.
AC: Oh.
TS: OK, tell me, I guess just in general, first of all-.
AC: // Uh-huh. //
TS: // -How // old you were when you first started learning English and-.
AC: // Uh-huh. //
TS: // -About // your program at your school.
AC: OK. Uh, actually, uh, English is a required subject in my country for every student, for ah, in begin with jun-, ah, junior high school. Ah, it equals to I think, seventh grade, // here-. //
TS: // Uh-huh. //
AC: -But actually, uh, I, I learned English, first, first of all I learned 26 letters in my kindergarten. My, my mom taught me that, and, uh, I formerly, uh, contact with English would be some, sometime like my, between my fourth or fifth grade. I could not actually remember but it's about that time. About two years before my, uh, junior high school.
TS: OK and when you first, when they first started teaching you-.
AC: // Uh-hmm. //
TS: // -Was // it like colors and numbers and-?
AC: Uh, actually I went to kind of, because I think Americans don't have this kind of school. You went to Taiwan, you know, uh, after, besides the formal, uh, education, we have some, some organization that only for, for Christian that to make up their academic performance or anything else // ( ). //
TS: // Like // summer school kind of thing?
AC: Like summer school or some, or ah, chur-, or some professional training, something like that, we have tons of this kind of school. // Um-. //
TS: // OK. // Even for fourth, even for elementary age?
AC: Uh, yeah.
TS: And your parents had to pay for that, // extra? //
AC: // Yes, // yes. It's-.
TS: // Is it expensive? //
AC: // -All extra. // Uh, it depends. Uh, for example, even, ah, some, some teachers, they, they get, but it is illegal, they hold some like kind // of school-. //
TS: // Oh. //
AC: -After, after, uh, their work.
TS: It's illegal for them to do that?
AC: For, for teachers. For, for, you know, if I work in elementary school, I should, uh, able, uh, it is not il-, uh, legal to // teach-. //
TS: // On the side. //
AC: // -On the // side or 'cause, I worked in public school and it is not, 'cause, ah, teachers should focus on, that's, that's what the idea was, teachers should focus on their, uh, school, // uh-. //
TS: // Ahh. //
AC: -To, to contribute all their knowledge to their students at school, if you, if you, ah, you get another school after work-.
TS: // Right. //
AC: // -Then // you might, OK, you, you might tell your students, "This thing I won't teach you at school. If you want to learn you need to come to my // house and pay for that." //
TS: // Oh, interesting. //
AC: [Laughs] Probably-.
TS: // [Laughs] //
AC: // -But that's // why, my mom, ah, choose, um, a junior high school for me and she decided to, ah, send me in a school far away from my house instead of, of a closer one 'cause my mom preferred girl school.
TS: Oh, OK. So, if, but it was a public school-.
AC: Yeah // ( ). //
TS: // -And // the way the system works in Taiwan is, is you get to choose whatever school you want to?
AC: No. Actually just like Americans you, uh, you go to school that nearby your house but if, in case, but, we have some, you know some, some school, that maybe they have better academic performance and-.
TS: Uh-huh.
AC: -Parents wanted their children to get into that school, so that we move our [laugh] kind of residence to maybe my friend's house and you know-.
TS: // OK. //
AC: // -Just // pretend we live there // and-. //
TS: // OK. //
AC: -And, there, there's a school // there. //
TS: // OK. // So, yeah. It's pretty similar in the United States [laughs]. [Laughter]
TS: Yeah.
AC: [Laughs] You do the same thing?
TS: Yeah, in this area. So there is some difference in the school, even in the public school system?
AC: Yeah.
TS: And do they have private schools also there?
AC: Ah, yeah, but mostly it would be, ah, public school.
AC: And, I'm, I'm not sure if is private schools in the United States better than public schools, generally speaking?
TS: Um, // ( ). //
AC: // [Laughs] // In general, // probably? //
TS: // In general, // the academic requirements are higher.
AC: Uh-huh.
TS: And because, uh, students can be expelled-.
AC: // Uh-huh. //
TS: // -If // they misbehave-.
AC: Uh-huh.
TS: -Then there's less problems with behavior.
AC: Um-hmm.
TS: Because it's like the smarter, cream of the crop kids wind up going to the private schools. Is it pretty much the same thing in Taiwan?
AC: Um, in Taiwan we, it's some busy parents-.
AC: -The parents, rich parents.
TS: Yeah.
AC: Because it costs a lot to go // to school. //
TS: // Yeah. // It does here too, yeah. And so your mom, does your mom speak English?
AC: Um, a little bit 'cause she, uh, she did, she got her diploma in, in university. So that's-.
TS: In the United States?
AC: No, no in Taiwan.
TS: Oh, OK, // oh. //
AC: // 'Cause // she speaks Eng-, 'cause English is a requirement.
TS: Right, yeah.
AC: So everybo-, everybody knows English, I should say that, but maybe they don't speak 'cause-.
TS: Right.
AC: -In Taiwan mostly, uh, we are all Chinese, we all speak Chi-, we speak Chinese all the time. But English is a required subject and it will be tested, uh, in our entrance exams so we, we, everybody if get through, if you are, um, university graduated-.
TS: // Uh-huh. //
AC: // -You // must have some specific level of your English, specific knowledge of English.
TS: To graduate?
AC: Yeah, 'cause you need to pass the entrance exam to get into, to enroll in university.
TS: OK. Are the, the, um, entrance exams, are they all written?
AC: // Yeah. //
TS: // Or, are there-. //
AC: // Paper based. //
TS: // -Any oral or listening tests? //
AC: // There is the, // there, there're listening tests, but it's on the paper. Maybe is, for example, the conversation test and it will be for example, uh, it will be, "How are you?" 1. OK. How-, A, "How are you," then blank and you have to choose, "I'm fine." [Laugh] A, // B, C, like that. //
TS: // Oh, oh, OK, // OK, OK. So it's not where there is a conversation on a // tape recorder-. //
AC: // No, no, no. //
TS: -And then you have to write down what the story was about or // anything. //
AC: // No, // not in the past but I'm not sure about now, 'cause, 'cause, uh, when I was in, uh, junior high school, our, uh, exam at school we had some kind of, this kind of exam. But, actually in the formal entrance exam, we didn't have anything like that.
TS: Is it similar to the TOEFL, you think?
AC: No.
TS: Is it harder or // easier? //
AC: // Um, // I think it is easier 'cause it's, uh, sh-, in the, uh, assessment style we can take, is an achievement assessment.
TS: // OK. //
AC: // So, // so, what, uh, what was tested is, ah, in the test you can't find it in the text book or anything. Not like TOEFL, 'cause TOEFL is like a profiency test.
TS: OK, OK, yeah. You took the TOEFL, right?
AC: Yeah.
TS: To start here in the University?
AC: Uh-huh.
TS: Did you, did you take it, like when you first got here? Did you have to go through the ELTL program to get into the University? Did you take, you took it in the United States, or before you // came here? //
AC: // Uh, // I took, I took TOEFL test, ah, both in Taiwan when I the first time I // took it. //
TS: // OK, [laugh]. // Did you think it was hard? Did you have to study for it?
AC: But 'ca-, 'cause, but when I took the TOEFL test in Taiwan I took the, it's a paper-based but what I took in America it was computer // based-. //
TS: // Uh-huh. //
AC: -So it is difficult to compare the difficulty between the two tests.
TS: OK, OK, OK. Uh, but was there a listening section on that?
AC: Yeah.
TS: OK. Was there a writing section on that, like did you have to write an // essay or-? //
AC: // Ah, // on the computer based, but not in, in the paper-based.
TS: OK, OK. Now there wasn't, there's not a speaking part in the TOEFL either, right?
AC: No.
TS: OK. OK, so let's go back to, you said in fourth and fifth grade, you got a little bit of English.
AC: // Uh-huh. //
TS: // What, // how was it that they taught it? What was it you remember about-.
AC: // Uh. //
TS: // -Learning // first of all?
AC: You mean the, I think the, vocabulary?
AC: Just like, um, we did flash cards, the flash cards and the, uh, it was interesting 'cause, 'cause all I remember, 'cause my, my memory is kind of poor for my childhood-. [Laughter]
AC: -All I remember is just like what people remember in their kindergarten, cookies. [Laughter]
AC: // 'Cause-. //
TS: // I just // remember my teacher names and that's about it.
AC: My teacher, uh, 'cause she's a-, actually she is a very famous teacher in Taiwan 'cause she is um, she's, uh, w
TS: // Even written? //
AC: Yeah, right. Before I, I learned that word. And, and my classmate from South America [laughs], they would, they would, uh, leave only two blank [laughs].
AC: Oh, that was so embarrassing. [Laughter]
AC: But I always, I always got higher scores in sams, in exams than they did.
TS: For the grammar part.
AC: For the grammar, for the reading, for writing. For those things.
TS: // Uh-huh. //
AC: // Even // for oral skills.
TS: Huh.
AC: That was interesting because I think because we are really test oriented.
TS: Yeah, in Taiwan. Yeah education is really important in Taiwan.
AC: Ah, maybe test skills [laughs] are really important.
TS: Test skills-. [Laughter]
TS: -Are very important [laughs]. Do you have what, yeah you said you had placement tests.
AC: Placement test.
TS: Did you ever, um, when you're, um, when you were in your English class, did you have weekly tests?
AC: You mean-.
TS: Daily tests?
AC: // You mean-. //
TS: // How often? //
AC: In Taiwan?
TS: In Taiwan, yeah.
AC: In Taiwan I was the, I was in the, the kind of new program for, uh, for grouping students, so, uh, in, in my, uh, beginning with my junior high school, my first year in junior high school, and the first of mastery is all the same in the first year, then, um, at the eighth grade and because we, we group students to, to different levels, according to their performance-.
TS: // Uh-huh. //
AC: // -Uh, // in the seventh grade.
TS: So the higher students were put together-.
AC: // Yeah. //
TS: // -And // the students who weren't learning as quickly were put together?
AC: Yeah, depends on the subject. In the past we just group students to, to, uh, in all subjects then they separate them. Then it isn't really, not good. Then, then the scholars or educators think that, uh, it is better to just, ah, group in according to some specific subject like English, uh, English, Math, and ah, ah, physics and, uh, Chemistry as well. So I think they, they believe these three subjects are, uh, those what student would perform, uh, significantly different-.
TS: // Uh-hmm. //
AC: // -Then. // So we group them to chose different group and of course I was the A, then I really didn't know what [laugh] my classmates are in B, I guess, but, but, for example, uh, uh, group A would get more focus on, uh, those skills // trade skills. //
TS: // Oh, OK. //
AC: 'Cause, then we, uh, process the, the test maybe, uh, sooner than group B-.
TS: Uh-huh.
AC: -Did.
TS: Do you remember, you don't remember the names of any of your books, do you? Were they all written in Taiwan?
AC: Uh, yeah.
TS: OK, and were all your teachers, were any of them native English speakers or were they all-.
AC: // No. //
TS: // -Taiwanese? //
AC: They are all Taiwanese.
TS: Um-hmm. And, um, was it harder then for you? You think when you listen to people-.
AC: Um-hmm.
TS: -That were native-.
AC: // Uh-huh. //
TS: // -English // speakers because they didn't have the same maybe accent or intonations that the Taiwanese teachers did?
AC: // Uh-hmm. //
TS: // Was that-? //
AC: But you know, ah, that it is interesting that we focus on intonation in Taiwan more than what I heard in United States, 'cause I think you, ah, kind of get used to it, because that's the daily conversation.
TS: // Uh-hmm. //
AC: // You // don't focus on daily conversation at all.
TS: Um-hmm.
AC: But for when we learn English in our book we have something like, uh, "How are you?" The "are" is an octave higher and it's-.
TS: // Oh. //
AC: // -More // for the intonation.
TS: Do you think it's because Taiwanese is a tonal language? Is it, it's a, Taiwanese, Taiwanese, is tonal right?
AC: What do you mean tonal?
TS: I mean like you can say something and go up at the end and it means something different than if you say the exact same thing and go down at the end.
AC: // Uh. //
TS: // Like // ma