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Interview with Yi Chun Liu

Liu, Yi-Chun
Kwak, Eun Hye
Date of Interview: 
Cultural Idenitification
Yi-Chun Liu talks about her experiences in learning English and English assessment.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Eun Hye Kwak interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
EK (Eun Hye Kwak): My name, Eun Hye Kwak and today is January 15, 2003. I'm going to interview Amy Liu, Yi-Chun Liu, for [pause] 5101 assignment. Yi-Chun, I am going to ask you something about your school days while you were in school in your country. About your English education. And, um, the interview will probably go take about 30 minutes. Is that OK with you?
YL (Yi-Chun Liu): OK, no problem.
EK: OK. Good. Hi.
YL: Hi.
EK: Did you have lunch?
YL: Yeah, \\ I just had it. \\
EK: \\ OK. Good. \\ I am really glad you have time for me this afternoon.
YL: Oh, no problem [laughs].
EK: OK. Uh, as I mentioned, I am going to ask you some questions about your language experience in your country. You are from Taiwan, right?
YL: Yes.
EK: So, you will give me an opportunity to learn about your language education.
YL: Oh.
EK: Of your homeland, OK?
YL: Thank you.
EK: OK. Uh, do you remember what kind of language classes you had while you were in middle school or high school or in, even in college?
YL: Uh, in Taiwan, we started learning English, I mean, \\ students \\ started learning English from middle school.
EK: \\ Uh-huh.\\ OK, so, you learn English since then?
YL: Yeah, and that the required subject. \\ Subject. \\
EK: \\ OK. \\ And your major in college was?
YL: English.
EK: English? OK. Good. OK. So, how was the class in your middle school [pause] the language curriculum?
YL: Teachers focus, um, teachers focus on more grammar.
EK: Grammar?
YL: Reading, writing.
YL: Yeah.
EK: But not much speaking?
YL: Yeah. We, we don't, we didn't have-.
EK: Any?
YL: -Enough, enough chances to speak.
EK: Oh. \\ OK. \\
YL: \\ Yeah, \\ students have to find, find opportunities-.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: -To \\ talk, to speak. \\
EK: \\ And do you have any, \\ then, do you have any opportunity to work with groups? Or is it just teacher lecture thing?
YL: I think \\ teacher lecturing. \\
EK: \\ Teacher lecturing \\ all the time?
YL: Like one-way teaching, but I prefer speaking I think.
EK: Oh, OK.
YL: Yeah we just sit, sat there and listening.
EK: You just sit there and just listen, huh?
YL: Yeah.
EK: Oh, OK. And, so, it seems like you don't like the classes. Do you like?
YL: But basically, I like English, so that's not a problem. So when teachers wanted to teach us, uh, to sing-.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: -Yeah and I.
EK: I mean English song?
YL: Yeah, English songs and I will love it. Yeah. That's my favorite part.
EK: \\ Oh, OK. \\
YL: \\ Yeah. \\
EK: OK. You have, you know, better chance to learn language, English, I mean. In my country, we don't have any opportunity to sing along [laughs].
YL: \\ Really? \\
EK: \\ No, \\ not at all. So, I mean, you had better education \\ than \\ [laughs] I did.
YL: \\ Oh. \\ Thank you.
EK: OK. How do other, how did other students feel while you were in school? I mean you, you like English anyway, right?
YL: Yeah.
EK: But how about other kids? Do they like English or?
YL: Hmmm, I think it depends on their interest. But since that's the required subject and you have to learn it-.
EK: \\ Anyway, \\ right?
YL: -\\ And \\ then, after, I mean, when you, in Taiwan when you enter, when you want to enter high school, you need high school entrance exam.
EK: Oh.
YL: And English is the required subject you need to take, you need to have a test. So you have to learn it, study hard \\ so, \\ I think, it is basically just for passing a test or getting a highest score.
EK: \\ Oh, OK. \\ OK.
YL: That's the student's purpose \\ to learn \\ English, I think.
EK: \\ OK. \\ OK, so in your, uh, like English curriculum, you have more toward, like, reading comprehension \\ and grammar? \\
YL: \\ Reading, \\ yes. Grammar and reading, \\ I would say \\ so.
EK: \\ Grammar. \\ Grammar and reading.
YL: Yes.
EK: And no dialogue?
YL: Just read. \\ Sentence \\ by sentence, paragraph by paragraph.
EK: \\ Passages? \\ And you translated into your language?
YL: Yeah.
EK: Oh, OK. And [pause] then how did they assess you language level or in English?
YL: Have a test, had a test.
EK: You had a test?
YL: Yeah.
EK: What kind of test is it?
YL: Closed test.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: And not multiple single test, not multiple.
EK: Uh, the short answers?
YL: Yeah.
EK: Short answers?
YL: Yeah. And I think multiple choice.
EK: Multiple choice, too?
YL: Yes, closed test and translate.
EK: And translation?
YL: Translation, yeah. And, and sometimes reading test, you, you, you read.
EK: Passages?
YL: Yeah, you read like a short story and answer questions. It will be, be multiple choice, too.
EK: OK. So, is all students ta-, take the exam at the same time?
YL: Yeah.
EK: In the same room, right?
YL: Yeah, \\ yes. \\
EK: \\ How, how, \\ I mean, did you feel comfortable with that kind of test environment or, you are a little nervous, or?
YL: Yeah, first of all, I was nervous.
EK: Nervous?
YL: Yeah. But after that, it's fine.
EK: It's fine?
YL: Yeah.
EK: OK. And, and no assessment for your oral proficiency, right? Not at all? You don't have any speaking test?
YL: I couldn't remember but I, I don't think we have. Before, I mean.
YL: Probably, now teachers do.
EK: But in your days, right?
YL: But before, when I learn \\ English, \\ when I learn English, I couldn't, I didn't, I didn't think so.
EK: \\ Uh-huh. \\ OK. Was it same while you were in middle school and high school? No change in assessment?
YL: Yeah, same.
EK: Same?
YL: Yeah. Testing. Tests, tests, and tests. Testing and testing.
EK: Uh-huh. OK. \\ Just uh, just paper \\ test, right?
YL: \\ I think. \\ Yeah, paper test. I think Korea same, \\ right? \\
EK: \\ Yeah, \\ Yeah [laughs].
YL: So, for me I always found a chance to speak with foreigners.
EK: Oh.
YL: Yeah.
EK: I mean it's, it's good for you.
YL: Yeah, I like to, to practice speaking so-.
EK: Oh, OK.
YL: So if I'm more interesting and I, I, I will find a chance to \\ speak, to practice speaking. \\
EK: \\ Oh. Ohhh. Oh. \\ Even in, even you were in middle or high school, right?
YL: I think high school.
EK: High school?
YL: I, I had more courage so-.
EK: Ohhh. \\ OK. \\
YL: \\ Uh-huh. \\ -So I wouldn't be afraid, speaking with foreigners.
EK: Oh, good, yeah. I've never met, you know, foreigners until I entered the college.
YL: Oh, really?
EK: No, no. So. [Laughs] OK. And do, are you, were you satisfied with the, uh, test score or the result of each assessment?
YL: Sometimes I did well but sometimes I didn't. So I don't, I didn't think testing is the only way to assess your English level. I didn't think so.
EK: OK. Do you think they measure just, you know, specific knowledge or why are you not that satisfied with the uh, \\ assessment? \\
YL: \\ Because I think \\ my speaking is better than grammar, \\ reading, writing \\ so, that's why I didn't think it's, it's fair or I think.
EK: \\ Ohhh. \\ OK, I mean.
YL: Because I think my speaking is better than other.
EK: Grammar and?
YL: Yeah, but, yeah, um, my English, uh, was good. There, I, I, I did, I did well about my English test. Just sometimes, it, it, I mean, sometimes I didn't do well but basically, I, I am fine with it.
EK: OK. OK. OK. OK. I mean, can you guess, I mean, how other students felt about the assessment?
YL: Sometimes they say they had no idea about English.
EK: [Laughs]
YL: Yeah, they got lost like that. They say they were not interested in English.
EK: OK. And do you have to memorize lots of things to take the test?
YL: Memorize?
EK: Like in a \\ vocabulary-. \\
YL: \\ Sentence, \\ sentence patterns-.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: -Sentence structures.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: -Vocabulary, of course.
EK: OK. I mean, did the test measure your, you know, general knowledge, everyday knowledge or just, you know, like, um, cramming materials and [pause] that served for just for test?
YL: Let me think. Um. I think we review the textbook.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: And we did the test after, after reviewing so-.
EK: I mean, did you review yourself or do teachers review for students?
YL: -Teacher-.
EK: Reviewed.
YL: -Reviewed it and we, we, and we went home to study \\ and \\ next day or next week or following week, we have test.
EK: \\ Oh, OK. \\ So.
YL: Basic, I think basic textbook in middle school but in high school, more you need to read outside reading. Yeah. Because a lot of vocabulary. I mean, you need to learn by \\ yourself, \\ especially in high school.
EK: \\ Oh. \\ OK. So, in middle school, uh, the teacher's review help you to get better score in your test, right?
YL: Yeah.
EK: \\ OK, but in high school? \\
YL: \\ High school is harder. \\
EK: It's harder? So you have to learn yourself, right?
YL: Yeah. Yeah.
EK: Including outside readings and.
YL: Yeah. Of course, we, teachers reviewed the test. The vocabulary, sentence structures-.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: -For us. But I mean some, like, OK, 60 percent in textbook but 40 percent outside reading. Belong, belong to outside reading so belongs to outside reading.
EK: So you have to prepare for it for yourself, right? Reading rigorous, I mean, vigorously from other sources, huh?
YL: Yeah.
EK: Um, OK. And do, do, do you think the language assessment is important?
YL: I think probably is, is. I didn't think it's the only way but [pause] you mean is, is it important?
EK: Uh-huh. Do you think?
YL: I think \\ it should be more like \\ daily life. Daily life based.
EK: \\ How important? \\ You mean not just, you know, once a month or, you know, once a semester, uh, test? You want to, you want the teachers measure you everyday progress, right? \\ That's what you mean? \\
YL: \\ Not, no, no, no. \\ I mean, it should be, it, it should include speaking.
EK: Speaking?
YL: Yeah. I think every aspect.
EK: Oh, OK. Not just, you know, reading and writing and speak-, uh, the listening, right?
YL: Uh-huh.
EK: Did you have any listening test?
YL: I think.
EK: You think?
YL: I think we did. Uh, I forgot.
YL: I forgot. Yeah.
EK: So but basically, basically, you have just, you know, more focus on reading and writing, right?
YL: Yeah.
EK: Which one? Reading more focused or writing more focused or both, same weight?
YL: I think reading.
EK: Is heavily, right, focused?
YL: Yeah. And, like 20 percent we have, we have essay test.
EK: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
YL: Composition. You need to write a composition in 30 minutes so, yeah.
EK: Was it same from middle school, all the time? Or is?
YL: High school entrance exam, uh, student, I remember we didn't have that but college entrance exam, we did. \\ We did \\ have composition test.
EK: \\ Oh, OK. \\ Composition?
YL: Yes.
EK: Oh, OK. Could you more elaborate about the college entrance exam? What kind of English test does that have?
YL: What kind of exam?
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: Like I mention.
EK: You have, uh, 20, what is it, 20 minute, 30 minute, uh, essay question, one essay question?
YL: Like, \\ like a, \\ "Why do you want to go to college?" Like that.
EK: \\ "What does?" \\ OK.
YL: Or "Do you think college is important?" \\ Like that. \\
EK: \\ OK, \\ so that is one essay question. \\ What, what others? \\
YL: \\ The topic. \\ The topic. The \\ topic. \\ One topic and write down the essay like a third paragraphs, like that.
EK: \\ Topic. \\ What other components?
YL: What other components?
EK: Yes. The college entrance English exam you said writing essay. And what other stuff? Reading comprehension?
YL: Oh yeah, let me think. [Pause] 30 to 40 percent?
EK: 30 to 40 percent of reading comprehension?
YL: Ah, let me see. Yeah. Multiple choice, closed test reading. Yeah.
EK: Oh, OK.
YL: Yeah. Like a 45 short stories or.
EK: OK. OK. How important is the college entrance exam for your life?
YL: How important?
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: It will affect your future career.
EK: I mean, I mean, your future solely depends on college entrance exam or can you make up with other stuff like your school [pause] achievement? Or are you just, you know, your college entrance only depends on that path?
YL: Basically, uh, of course, if you can get a higher score, then go to better public school. In Taiwan, public school is better than private school, schools. And.
EK: Oh, I didn't know that.
YL: Is different in Korea? No?
EK: I mean we have, uh, one public university that is good but, except that, the private universities are, I mean, prestigious, too.
YL: Really?
EK: Yeah.
YL: But I, I, I didn't mean private school, schools are not, are, are not good.
EK: Oh, OK.
YL: I mean, \\ basically, if you. \\
EK: \\ They, the student universities \\ are higher, higher, highly ranked, right? That's what you mean, right?
YL: Yeah. We have good, we have, we have good private schools, too.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: But I mean, if you get higher score, you can go to public school and you pay less. \\ You know, know what I mean? \\ Yeah.
EK: \\ Ahhh, OK, uh-huh. \\ The tuition is cheaper, \\ right? \\
YL: \\ Yes. \\
EK: That's why. Oh, OK. And, [pause] I forgot. Oh, in my country, the college entrance exam determines everything.
YL: You, too?
EK: Yes. If you get higher score, whatever you did in your, you know, high school, doesn't matter. That is the only sole determiner for your college.
YL: Uh-huh.
YL: Uh-huh.
EK: So some students don't study at school. You know, they just, you know, rely on college entrance exam so they take, you know, private lessons and tutors for just upgrading scores for college entrance exam. So, that's why I am asking, you know, is, is same with your country students?
YL: But now it's better, I think.
EK: Yeah.
YL: The situation changes, of course.
YL: Yeah.
EK: OK. Uh, let's hold here for a moment.
EK: And, um, you came here to study as a graduate student, right?
YL: Yeah.
EK: So you had to take, uh, TOEFL and GRE?
YL: Yes, TOEFL test.
EK: OK. How was that? Did you feel OK with the test? I mean, was it different from your, you know, school test?
YL: Yeah it's different. Listening part.
EK: OK. So it's kind of brand new to you, right?
YL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Especially, at the beginning it has listening part.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: You, you, you took that, too, \\ right? \\
EK: \\ Yes. \\
YL: Yeah. Listening part is at the beginning.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: Yeah.
YL: Yeah.
EK: And, what other part?
YL: Listening. I, I took, uh, CBTs, \\ computer-based. \\
EK: \\ Oh, computer. \\ OK.
YL: Computer-based.
EK: You didn't take, uh, paper pencil test?
YL: No.
EK: No?
YL: I, when I practice.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: -I did paper test \\ but when I \\ I mean, when I-.
EK: \\ You did? \\ Actually took the test.
YL: -( ) CBT. Yeah, computer-based.
EK: Which one do you prefer? [Pause] No problems?
YL: No problems.
YL: It's kind of torture, I think.
EK: Oh, OK.
YL: Yeah. I don't like either. TOEFL test.
EK: Oh, OK. Why? Why don't you like it?
YL: I think it's not, I mean, I always think testing is not the only way to judge, to assess your English level. Yeah. 'Cause it cannot assess my speaking ability.
EK: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
YL: Yeah. Because I have to, I have to admit I, I'm not good at testing. Yeah. I don't know.
YL: So, sometimes, I feel frustrated, too. Because, yeah. Some students they are good at testing.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: But some of them. Yeah. So, it depends.
EK: It depends on-.
YL: Like a-.
EK: -Learning style?
YL: -OK. Some, some cases like, are like, some students they get, they got higher scores, but they couldn't speak very well or fluently. Yeah. They couldn't speak English at all.
EK: But they are just good at testing, \\ right? \\
YL: \\ Yes. \\ Yes. So, it's not good. It's not.
EK: Fair measure, right?
YL: Yeah, yeah. That's what I trying to say.
EK: How about GRE? Same?
YL: GRE? I did not have enough time to prepare that.
YL: I focus more on TOEFL test.
EK: OK. And how about the vocabulary and the, uh, what is it, reading comprehension and other stuff? You said listening is, you know, kind of new to you so you had hard time with it. How about other part? You are familiar with that kind of test, right? Because your school tests are.
YL: But basically, I think, it's a little bit different 'cause it's a world, worldwide test.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: Not only focus on Asian-.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: -Asian area.
EK: Uh-huh.
YL: -Test. So, um, I think it's harder.
EK: Harder?
YL: Yeah. It's harder. Yeah.
EK: Do you think, uh, the test measure your, uh, ability to study in, in this country?
YL: No. Just half.
EK: Half?
YL: Yeah. 'Cause I'm, I'm not good testing. So, my score is OK not very, very high like, you know, China, students from China they always get at least 600. TOEFL at least 600 because they have a very tough, uh, they have a very, yeah, tough cram school. To train students how to get the highest score. They need to live at the cram school for three or to six months \\ and \\ teachers train them, train them, to predict and answer questions.
EK: \\ Oh. \\ Oh.
YL: So when they just see the questions and they already know the-.
EK: Answers?
YL: -The answers.
EK: Oh.
YL: 600, I think, basically for us hard.
EK: Oh.
YL: Do you think? Or you already got 600?
EK: [Laughs] Yeah. I got, uh, more than that but you know, yeah, I understand. Yeah. So they go to cram school to just prepare for TOEFL test, right? They have higher, higher grade comparing, I mean, students in your country, right?
YL: Yeah.
YL: They can get scholarship, too. So they can get scholarship easily.
EK: But you know.
YL: But I think basically, they are, their English ability is good. But, I mean, there's a cram school there. So, I mean, many of them. I am sure some students, they very are excellent, I mean. But I heard that cram school is very popular.
EK: Oh, OK. But it's not the, you know, fair measure, right, to know your ability in language proficiency because they just, you know, study for three or four months just for that test and they got good score. That doesn't mean that they have better proficiency, right?
YL: Yeah.
EK: Oh, OK. So it's not reliable.
YL: Yeah. Reliable. Yeah.
EK: It's not, right?
YL: Yeah.
EK: Oh, OK. OK, thank you for your time. And.
YL: Yeah, no problem.
EK: OK. This is the end of recording with, uh-.
YL: Yi-Chun.
EK: -Yi-Chun Liu. Today is January 15th.