Last Reflection of Chile

Phil Koch debriefs his experience with time in Chile and S. America and how it compares with the U.S. at the conclusion of Autumn 17.

Without a doubt, South America is a vastly different region when compared with the United States and North America. Although each are part of the Americas, they each go about life in a very distinct way. South America tends to be much more laid back and almost fatalistic as a whole while the U.S. is undeniably focused on forward economic progress. As an American, I found it extremely interesting and a true privilege to experience a culture whose outlook on life is fatalistic (Chile) as US culture is based upon the idea that you directly control your life and what happens, the exact opposite of fatalistic cultures.

I would venture to guess almost everyone has had some experience with “Latin American Time”. Whether that be directly through a Latin American friend, a local experience in Latin America or indirectly through the grapevine, it is a common stereotype that Latin Americans are more often than not, considered late by North American standards. During my time in Chile I did find this to be true. Social events and even class could easily begin thirty minutes, forty minutes even up to one hour “late” due to the way Chileans and other Latin Americans view time. Before coming to Chile, I did not know the origins of the Latin American outlook on time or why people would/could be this late habitually. As alluded to above, this differing standard about “acceptable lateness” comes from a very different outlook on an approach to life (internal vs. external). Before my classes in Chile I had no idea this distinction existed or what may have caused the divide so I find the reasoning behind it quite fascinating.

My classes explained that North Americans derive much of their culture and work values from Protestant ideals, such as “work is noble” and “you live to work” among other associated ideas/sayings. On the other hand, Latin Americans derive much of their culture and work values which indirectly translate into their ideas about time from Catholicism with beliefs such as “work is not noble” and “you work to live” etc. These origins are quite insightful and help derive some context to the highly different views on time between North and South American cultures. Unlike in the United States, the idea of being “late” in South America is not seen as a horrible thing because time does not equal money. Life is meant to be enjoyed and work is merely an avenue to some level of comfortable sustenance. Since time does not equal money and work is not the end all be all of Latin American life, time is very flexible as it is meant to be enjoyed. If someone is late to a social gathering, class or meeting and they do not communicate that they will be late, it is not seen as a sign of disrespect as it often is in the U.S.

Having the opportunity to live for an extended period in a fatalistic culture that does not equate time with money has been an awesome experience for me. I found the roots of the time differences very interesting and honestly enjoyed experiencing the dichotomies between living in a fatalistic and internal control society. As someone who is always looking for the next opportunity, maximizes their time and someone who is almost always early, adapting to the Chilean way of life (concept of time) was difficult at first. However, after the first two to three weeks my time in Chile and adoption of the Chilean time concept has made me a fuller person. I was able to partially embrace the Latin American concept of time and truly enjoy most of my time in Chile without constantly planning, working and analyzing options for my future. I took the time to engage with other students and travel to different places around South America including, Argentina, Peru & Machu Picchu and various parts of Chile. Taking some time to truly enjoy life, the Latin American way instead of always working for the next thing and worrying about the future is liberating. Going forward I will be able to more evenly balance my business, schoolwork and social life based on some of the Latin American time principles I have adopted into my life. As a firm believer that you directly control what happens to you and someone who always prioritized work over other aspects of life, I highly recommend a semester abroad in Chile as it will make you a more complete person and show you that there is a whole lot more to enjoying life than simply getting ahead and excelling at work.

On the Inca Trail
Machu Picchu

Experiencing Cultural/Business Difference in Latin America

Phil Koch discusses how professional and classroom interactions are different in Latin America, as he studies as he studies at the University of Chile on the Student Exchange Program in Santiago, Chile.

By distance, I do not mean any sort of easily quantifiable form of distance that can be measured in miles or kilometers. No, I mean the intangible distance between people in power and those who are not within Latin America. Although Chile is over five thousand miles away from my home in Cleveland, it is not the sheer geographic distance that defines our differences in culture. Many may qualify five thousand miles as being extremely far away, but in my opinion it’s really not. When compared with a nine thousand mile journey to India or a seven thousand mile flight to China, a ten hour flight to Chile seems quite manageable, if not short. As someone who has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and visited dozens of cities around the world, I can say that the tangible difference between two points although real, is unimportant in understanding the world. What is more valuable is understanding that distance (defined as the amount of difference between different cultures) is abstract but very real. The culture of the United States and Chile are distinctly different in more ways than one but in this blog I will discuss what I have learned about Chilean culture when it comes to their perceptions of power and accessibility to those who are in a position of authority be it bosses or professors.

PDI or the Power Distance Index defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally is a good place to begin the analysis. The Power Distance Index is one of the six “cultural dimensions” that define a culture and was originally developed by Dutch researcher Geert Hofstede. As an International Business student I am all too familiar with these six definers of cultures as Hofstede is included in every International Management class and probably every single IM text book out there. However, before living abroad for such an extended period, first time being in India, I infrequently saw them in practice and was not able to contrast them with what I experience in the U.S. What I have learned at FEN and through my personal experience I have seen that there is a great divide between acceptance of inequality in power between Chile and the U.S. Chile scores highly on the Power Distance Index while the U.S. scores much lower meaning Chile is generally more accepting of inequality and is less prone to challenge authority. I have seen this to be extremely true based on my time at FEN. In the classroom it is extremely uncommon and even rude to challenge what a teacher states or interrupt them in any way. In one of my classes a number of other exchange students from the Nordic countries, who are egalitarian and open to discussion, challenged the ayudante (Chilean version of a TA) saying that a number of his facts were incorrect. Although I thought nothing of it, as a class we received an informal lecture describing how open disagreement with the professor is downright disrespectful in Chile, because it causes the person to lose credibility with the rest of the group. This credibility or the idea of always “saving face” is extremely important in Chilean and more broadly, Latin American culture. It helps to foster trust within a group whether business or personal. I also found that professors, especially those who are very traditional, do not make themselves as available for extra help as they do in the United States. It is not expected of them because they are in a place of authority at a much higher societal position than the student.

While I did learn firsthand about the differing dynamic of power in the Chilean academic environment when compared with that of the U.S., I learned in my classes how it applies to the Chilean business environment. Many of the themes I just discussed are true in this realm as well. Open disagreement with the boss or any superior rarely happens, if ever. Subordinates are expected to follow instructions and not challenge the direction of their superiors. I also learned that Chilean (and Latin American) employees tend to have less autonomy over their work than those in the U.S. or other Anglo founded countries. Part of the Power Distance in the business environment is that the boss accepts full responsibility for any successes or failures. For this reason, Chilean employees defer almost all decision making of any importance to their boss and will wait for their direct go ahead before moving forward. This is generally the opposite of what happens in the U.S. where independent problem solving and autonomy among subordinates is highly valued and encouraged. Lastly, I realized that similarly to what occurs in the Chilean academic realm, the negative attitude in the Chilean business community towards open confrontation is due to the high power distance found in Chilean society. A subordinate should not challenge a superior regardless of their education or personal achievements because it causes the superior to lose credibility among their colleagues and employees as well as have their power undermined.

In closing, Chileans tend to have a much higher acceptance of inequality within organizations than Americans which was difficult for me to adapt to. In a classroom setting I learned that direct disagreement is disrespectful and can cause a loss of trust and credibility between students and the teacher. Stemming from my experiences in the classroom the same is true of the business culture in Chile and Latin America. Large differences (distance) in power is widely accepted as normal and is the status-quo in Latin America meaning those who lack power or a position of authority are not as envious of those who do when compared with the United States. Missteps here as an American manager will kill your chances of having success while in Chile. Whether negotiating a deal with a Chilean customer or leading an international team here, always know who is in charge and who will be the final decision maker. Do not send a low or mid-level employee to negotiate a deal for you. Always send a high ranking executive to meet with Latin American customers so that they know you take their business seriously. Expanding on that point, if you find yourself leading a team of Chilean employees, remember that you must be assertive with your authority and give them the guidance they expect from a superior. Failure to do this will cause you to lose credibility as a boss or result in you losing an important deal. Truly understanding cultural distance and adapting to it in a meaningful way is the best way to ensure success when dealing with people from a culture that is different than your own, Chile included.

Starting Life in Santiago, Chile

Choosing to travel to Santiago, Chile during the 2017 Autumn semester, junior Phil Koch gives his impressions about Santiago and Student Exchange life at University of Chile’s business school (aka. FEN).

Santiago is a large city with a population of about 7.3 Million people, a comparable size to New York. Overall, I enjoy living in Santiago, mainly because I like the hustle and bustle of large cities and the opportunities to explore (food, culture, neighborhoods etc.) a variety of regions (My two favorite cities are Tokyo and Mumbai). If you love large cities and lots of people and feel comfortable with the size of Columbus, living in Santiago is perfect for you. My favorite place in Santiago is Cerro San Cristobal in Bellavista. This is a large park situated near the center of Santiago that is one of the highest points in Santiago with great views to the Andes and over the entire city as well as tons of green space situated very close to FEN! If you choose to study in Santiago you will definitely enjoy spending many sunny afternoons in this park. Even if you are just passing through Santiago for the day, Cerro San Cristobal is definitely worth the trip and short hike to the summit.

Some of the things you should keep in consideration if you are thinking to come to Chile are the smog and earthquakes. Santiago’s smog can become quite bad at times and when looking down on the city from the Andes it looks almost as if the region is covered with a thick white cloud hovering just a few thousand feet above the city. Although you will notice it at first if you choose to study in Santiago, in reality it is not too bad and much less inhibiting than Beijing, Delhi or even Los Angeles for example. Earthquakes are an almost every-day occurrence in Chile and it’s something that is so ingrained into the culture and daily life that people are rarely interrupted by them. My first experience with an earthquake was during my first class in Santiago, during my International Management class. With many of us in the class being foreign exchange students hailing from many regions ranging from Europe to Asia to North America, when we felt the shake we were all looking around the room at our peers as if to question “What’s going on?” while our instructor continued to teach undeterred.  I later learned that these tremors are so common in Chile and that the infrastructure is specifically built to withstand them, so they are not seen as a large problem. I do not bring these tremors up to dissuade anyone from a study in Chile, I only bring them up so that you can be aware of their prevalence and not be caught off-guard as I was to these largely harmless natural events.

Which region of Santiago you choose to live in will be the determining factor in what kind of city experience you have. For example, Las Condes (on the East side of the city) is one of the nicest areas to live in but it’s also the most expensive with a picturesque backdrop of the snow-capped Andes peaks not far beyond these homes in the hills. There are cheaper areas far from FEN such as Pudahuel which are comprised of mostly working class people. I include this information because your level of Spanish proficiency truly dictates where you can live as very few Chileans (~4%) speak any foreign language. Even if you have very limited proficiency you can definitely still study in Chile (as the FEN community is conversant in English, you will have no problem) but it will be more difficult for you to live in certain areas (lower income) as you really won’t be able to communicate effectively. However, if you have a decent level of proficiency and want to improve your Spanish then your accommodation options are much more open.

FEN a division of the University of Chile is a highly ranked business school in Chile and Latin America ranking within the top five of the entire continent. I took three courses in English and one in Spanish. In my experience, I found the courses in English to be just a bit easier than those at Ohio State because the courses were less quantitative (although this depends on what you take). I found the course in Spanish to be very difficult due to the language barrier so really asses your Spanish abilities when selecting classes. The faculty here are quite good and I learned a great deal about the Latin American region (Politics, Economics, and Demographics) and point of view of conducting business. For instance, I learned that Chileans and more holistically Latin Americans, tend to be very collectivistic. Satisfying the needs of the group is much more important than those of the individual. Additionally, decisions are made based on the cumulative group needs (whether family or business) and do not have a focus on individual needs as they do in the United States. I absolutely loved my schedule at FEN (also a quite common schedule I understand) where I had full days on Monday and Thursday and one class on Friday. FEN has a nice and compact campus situated in a very central location. I found for one semester it is a welcome change instead of having to run from building to building like at OSU! Lastly, I will close by saying you may need extra effort to engage with Chilean students because of the language barrier and because Chileans naturally tend to be a bit isolated and detached from outsiders. In my experience I did not find this to be such a large issue as there are one hundred international students here from all over the world that still expose me to international perspectives. All in all, if you speak some level of Spanish or would like to learn and you are looking for an exciting city to call home for a semester, give Santiago a serious look!

Lucky Number Seven- EMGL Blog December 9th, 2014

Today’s class marked a very important milestone of the semester; we would be giving our last presentation of the year. After counting up the numerous presentations we have done over the past weeks, I realized this was going to be our seventh presentation. Seventh. Not many MBA or graduate programs can say they have given seven presentations in one 15-week class, let alone an undergraduate program. Since we have practically spent this entire semester in front of our peers presenting and the last presentation we gave was our 20-minute final group export project, this 5-minute one seemed like child’s play.

We had approximately 3-5 minutes to present on the individual interest topic we chose about Brazil. The presentation would then be followed by everyone’s favorite pastime: 2-minute hot-seat Q & A interrogating the presenter about his or her topic. Everyone got these topics cleared at the beginning of the year and have been slowly gathering information for this presentation all semester. The purpose of these individual short presentations was to educate the class on a variety of topics that will be essential to know when we step off the plane in Manaus. Some of the topics included were: the history of the rubber industry, the Brazilian business culture, the Manaus Free Trade Zone, special holidays in Brazil, the stock index, Japanese culture in Brazil, Prime Equipment, the Brazilians’ view on Americans, Afro- Brazilian culture and the presidential election. We had no restrictions when choosing our topic; it only had to be relevant to our travels to Manaus.

The vibe in the class was more laid back than normal and this is probably attributed to the fact that this was our seventh presentation and we were well equipped with what kinds of questions could be thrown at us. Also, we got to choose our own topics so we were 100% confident and comfortable with the topic. Even though we did not get through everyone’s presentations this week and some people will have to go next week, this class seemed like the pretty bow that seals the nicely wrapped package. Following the end of each presentation, Mr. Sword asked the presenter questions, but they were more opinion- based and not as technical as in the week’s past. After one was finished presenting, they received feedback not just about that specific presentation, but comments about how they performed throughout the entire semester. The students appreciated being recognized for the hard work they had put into preparing for their many presentations: the countless hours spent in the Mason study rooms researching and preparing with their group, gathering knowledge about their individual interest topic on their own time and managing the intentional vagueness with instructions, which at times could be challenging.

After everything is said and done, the presentations are complete, our nine- day trip to Manaus is over and we start a new and fresh semester, I know for a fact that the students of the EMGL will take everything they have learned from this class and apply it to their future endeavors. They will be able to successfully handle bosses that say, “Make a presentation about the potential market in “insert country here”. You present on Monday!” They will not just “successfully handle” the situation, but surpass the expectations of their superiors and be one more step ahead of their peers; the students can thank The Ohio State University and The Fisher College of Business, but especially the Emerging Market Global Lab to Brazil for that.

This is not meant to scare you!- EMGL Blog December 2nd, 2014

When the presenter starts with the disclaimer, “This information is not intended to scare you!” you know you are in for quite an interesting presentation. This is exactly what happened to the students of the EMGL to Manaus, Brazil yesterday evening. Dru Simmons, the International Risk Manager for The Ohio State University, came to our class to debrief us on all of the different scenarios we could encounter in Brazil; from the rare disease of chickengunya, a mosquito- born illness that is becoming more prevalent in South America, to alcohol and drug safety in Brazil. One would think this information would be dry and hard to sit through, but Simmons included a multitude of anecdotes that broke up the information and made it more extremely interesting. We learned about what the responsibilities of the Department of States Program are and what they are required to do in case there is an emergency in country. Simmons also advised us to dress down and not wear jewelry in public. To supplement this advice, Simmons illustrated how imperative it is when he told the short story of a woman who was being interviewed on the street of Rio about the street crime that was rampant there, and while she was in mid-sentence, someone came up and ripped the necklace right off of her neck!

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Simmons also encouraged us to invest in a money belt, so the money we carry on us is not visible to the public eye. Furthermore, he noted that there are a good number of credit card scams in Brazil, so we need to make sure we are monitoring our account while in- country to watch out for fraudulent activity. One of Simmons’ closing suggestions was to never ever under any circumstances leave a person behind. Even if they are being a drag or are not interested in what the group is doing, they should never be left alone. One point was made very clear in that the group sticks together.

As Simmons was wrapping up his spiel, Zach Grammel, the Program Coordinator for The Office of Global Business at OSU, jumped up to start his presentation about more specifics of our Brazil trip. He split the class into guy and girl groups as people exchanged curious looks thinking they were back at elementary school recess about to be selected for dodge ball teams- boys versus girls. It turns out that our task was to create a packing list in 3 minutes of exactly what we are going to take to Brazil. The girls came up with more items, but the boys ultimately won the challenge because they quantified what they are bringing i.e. two pairs of dress pants, three leisure shirts etc. Grammel expressed how small our flight would be by displaying a photo of the inside of the airplane and you could hear whispers throughout the room. Mr. Sword took this opportunity to urge the class not to be selfish and only bring one light suitcase, so no one would hold the class behind when we arrive in-country.

At the end of class, we went over some of the planned events that we will be doing in Brazil and after hearing about chickengunya diseases and high street crime rates for the last hour, one could visibly notice the morale of the students pick up. Everyone is very excited about the trip and some overly enthusiastic students even started a countdown on their phone. In case anyone was wondering, the Emerging Market Global Lab class to Brazil will be on a plane to the Amazon in 29 days 17 hours 1 minute and 10 seconds from this very moment!

Thankful- EMGL Blog November 25th, 2014

On Tuesday night, as the majority of the student population at Ohio State is gearing up for Mirror Lake jump or is already snuggled up by the fire at their house for Thanksgiving break, the students of the Emerging Market Global Lab class to Brazil are preparing for their last round of presentations. They welcome a surprise guest who was a past food export intern for Mr. Sword at the Ohio Development Service Agency. His name is Eric Krohngold and he now works for Oracle in Houston, Texas doing a myriad of tasks that involve information technology and software. He offered invaluable advice to the students about life after college and how to keep persevering until you land that first job. Krohngold also emphasized how important LinkedIn is for your professional life. “I thought LinkedIn was just for people who wore their cell phones on their belt buckle during high school, but I was wrong!” He told the class chuckling.

Students also took this opportunity to ask him questions about the interview process or what it was like transitioning from college life to “real-world life.” When asked why he chose to work for Oracle in Houston, Texas, he said, “Honestly, because it was the one job I thought I could not do. If you are not constantly learning and pushing yourself to do more, then you need to find a new job.” He commented on the interview process and mentioned that he glances at a candidate’s resume, but also focuses on who the person is as a human being. “Could I get along with them at the office? Do they have hobbies outside of work? These are key factors when choosing to hire someone.”

With our heads now full of wisdom from someone who has not only walked the walk, but has talked the talk, the final two groups prepare for their last presentation. The first group up was the 3-D printing group and they impressed the class with their silent video playing in the background showing the 3-D printer in action. Some comments they received at the conclusion of their presentation were that they were more nervous than in their previous presentations. They defended this remark by saying they cared so much about the project and had worked so hard at it that they wanted to perform well, which is very understandable. Mr. Sword also commented that some information seemed to be missing that was in previous presentations and they reasoned that they did not put this information in because they had said it in a previous presentation.

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The last group to go was the baby formula group. They started off with a skit in a grocery store with a baby doll trying to find the best baby formula. The feedback they got about this is that it is OK in a classroom setting, but would not bode well in an executive boardroom. They were also questioned about the competitor’s for their baby formula in Brazil. Were they American brands? Were they Brazilian Brands? The group struggled to give a clear answer and might have clouded the audience’s understanding even more. Some overall advice that was given to all of the groups was to have additional slides that you do not present, so when someone asks a specific question you can pull this slide up and show that you had thought about that very same topic. Also, another tip was to present the answer and then give the justification. If you keep justifying your reasoning throughout the whole presentation, then the answer is pretty anti-climatic.

At the conclusion of class when everyone was packing up to leave class and drive or fly home to visions of grandma’s homemade pecan pie and delectable green bean casserole, I know I speak for the whole class when I say, I am thankful for the experiences gained in the EMGL; dealing with ambiguous directions and learning not only how to absorb constructive criticism, but how to apply it and improve yourself in the future. The class can sleep easy in the coming days of break knowing that they can face critiques and move forward and for that I am eternally grateful.

A Numbers Game

The last Portuguese Language Lab was held tonight and it went over a useful topic: numbers. I began the class like any other and went over a scenario in which student would be shopping in Manaus and would need to greet the shop owner to ask him/her how much something costs.

Going over the conversation and telling the class what everything means.
Going over the conversation and telling the class what everything means.

I thought is would be a bit dry to teach students the numbers 0 to 100 by just writing them on the board, so I incorporated two Youtube videos which had a native speaker slowly enunciates each number while students repeated after her. In the first video for example, the speaker went over 0-20 which is usually the most challenging for learners because you need this base in order to say bigger numbers.

Youtube video detailing Portuguese numbers.
Youtube video detailing Portuguese numbers.

In order to encourage retention, I had my peers turn around from the board while they randomly tell me Portuguese numbers. Most of the time they found it easy to recite the numbers due to the similarities with Spanish (most students took Spanish in high school), but at times the pronunciation did confuse them. For example, the numbers três, quatro, cinco, and seis (three, four, five and six) have basically the same pronunciation as Spanish since they are both Romance languages, but there are some differences such as with sete, oito, nove and dez (seven, eight, nine, and ten).

Students practicing numbers as we go around the room.
Students practicing numbers as we go around the room.

The second video went over how to count from 20-100. It was simple because students only have to know the tens (20, 30, 40, 50, etc.) and the base numbers from 1 to 9 in order to form numbers. We practiced this by counting around the table from 0 to 100 as each person said one number. A number like 43 would be translated as “40 and three” or “quarenta e três“. After each video students were then able to go back to the conversation and practice saying something costing seventeen reals or “dezesete reais”.

After watching the video, I would go back to insert a random number and have volunteers practice using it at the "market".
After watching the video, I would go back to insert a random number and have volunteers practice using it at the “market”.

All in all, my experience as a Language Tutor was very beneficial. Not only was I helping to plan lessons and teach students what I knew, but I was able to review some concepts for myself. Those who were able to attend even one class were able to learn something that they would have otherwise never learned if they had not taken this Emerging Markets Lab course to Brazil.

A final treat of buckeyes as  students commemorate the last language lab.
A final treat of buckeyes as students commemorate the last language lab.

D- Day: EMGL Blog November, 18th 2014

Dun dun… dunn dunn… dunnn dunnn. This was the sound that was going through every EMGL students’ head at 5:27pm yesterday evening. The music to the Jaws movie was fitting because it was D-Day, the day of our final group export projects. The quick 5- minute presentations we have been giving every week for the past month of class pale in comparison to this mammoth final presentation. This presentation is required to be 15- 20 minutes or four times the length of our usual presentations.

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Everyone could sense a different energy walking into the classroom in Bolz Hall. This change was due to a combination of everyone being in “business professional,” the lack of sleep due to preparing for the presentation, the amount of other exams that just happened to fall on this Tuesday, and the frigid cold temperatures outside. Professor Sword could sense the anxiety in the room and acted quickly to reverse the energy. Less than a minute later, everyone in Bolz Hall could hear the beautiful musical intonations of the one and only Taylor Swift as she sang us the best advice to just “shake it off.” After the students took Swift’s advice, the parade of presentations began. First up was the air conditioning group. Throughout their presentations over the past month, they had been urged to increase their enthusiasm when presenting. All the students who have sat through their weekly presentations could sense a positive notable difference in their enthusiasm. At the end of their presentation, they were questioned on why they passed a template of an invoice around rather than just displaying it on the screen and were also probed about the break down of their numbers. Overall, they got solid feedback and set the bar high for the rest of the presentations.

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Up next was the latex glove group. In past classes, the audience had expressed concern over where they were going to sell their gloves and exactly what kind of glove they would sell. They did a nice job of clarifying the concerns by being very specific on what kinds of gloves they were going to export etc. They even added a talking point about culture considerations when doing business with another country, in particular Brazil. Some things that we learned were that it is rude to use the “aye okay” symbol and that women should dress more feminine in the workplace than they do in the United States. They also received positive feedback, but some suggestions that were made included more eye contact with audience, stand closer to the audience and get rid of notes because they are an unnecessary clutch.

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After the latex glove group, the Luna Burger group was up to bat. They had a very visually appealing PowerPoint and reached out to a variety of different business people to enhance their presentation. When it came time for feedback, the comments were not all peaches and cream. Some criticisms were that it was four mini presentations in one that were not coherent with each other. As the saying goes, “it is not personal, it’s just business.” This feedback was not to insult the group, but to encourage them to improve. We cannot be “fired” from this class, but we can learn from our mistakes and improve so that we do not make the same errors when we are giving “real” presentations in the “real world.”

Team Voldemort & Team Dumbledore

A major improvement can definitely be seen among students in the fourth Portuguese class. I began the class like any other night with a conversation, but instead of moving on to a new topic, I reviewed the previous half of the hypothetical restaurant conversation so we could practice the entire dialogue thoroughly.

Leading the vocabulary review
Leading the vocabulary review

Though attendance was lower than usual, it allowed for more individual attention among students. In fact, all students were at one point able to come up to the front of the class and pronounce all the phrases written on the board while I interrupted once in a while to correct errors.

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I spiced things up with a game in which two teams formed to put together words on pieces of paper to form the phrases we have been learning the past month. I would switch up between English and Portuguese so that students would have to try thinking in each language. For example, if I said “Where is the bathroom?”, they would have to find the words “Onde“, “Fica“, “O”, and “Banheiro” and then raise their hands before the other team.

"Team Voldemort" looks for their complete phrase during a round of the game.
“Team Voldemort” looks for their complete phrase during a round of the game.

Teams became quite competitive and it made language learning fun because if one person was not sure of the answer, they would work together to form the sentence structure. The game ended in a tie and afterwards I felt that combining words already available to people may be more effective than asking for rote memorization. Perhaps students would have an idea about what phrases “looked familiar”, but not necessarily remember them from memory. I believe just that familiarization is important for beginning language learners.

"Team Dumbledore" in discussion
“Team Dumbledore” in discussion

Restaurants and Repetition

So last week was the third class, making my official halfway mark as a Student Tutor for my peers. The topic of the day was ordering food at a restaurant and talking about allergies. I believe that this was a useful yet tough topic to teach as there were many new vocabulary words that I was trying to get across.

Me showing the class the next conversation and later having to cut it in half to allow for the words to set in.
Me showing the class the next conversation and later having to cut it in half to allow for the words to set in.

But with the limited time of only 45 minutes per class, I found it challenging in this session particularly to express all definitions and meanings so that students could understand them and apply them in the future. I had to continuously repeat words and answer any questions on pronunciation for any students.

Some students actually take notes! It makes for conducive learning outside of class.
Some students actually take notes! It makes for effective learning outside of class.

One thing I found interesting was that depending on the student and their background, there would be difficulties that they experienced more. For example, two students originally from China had some trouble with words that involved “R” sounds and would instead make an “L” sound in a word like frango (chicken). Each student has their strengths and weaknesses, so it is to my benefit to identify what those are and work to improve them through the short time I have.

Students turned around to be tested on class material.
Students turned around to be tested on class material.

Class ended with students turning around from the board to be tested on the vocabulary and phrases we have been learning for the past three weeks. I called students to say “No, I don’t have allergies” for example, and they would then have to state the phrase “Não, não tenho”. After receiving feedback after the class, a better approach moving forward would be to ease up on straight repetition and ensure that everyone actually knows the material.

Such excitement in their faces.
Such excitement in their faces.