Lunar New Year

cny-happy-new-year-2018-full

M, originally from Shanghai,  is in northern Vietnam at the moment. He has posted on Facebook:

Had very interesting lunar New Years in Vietnam with hotel’s manager and owner’s family, first time I went to temples for a Chinese New Year. Never prayed in my life but I did this time. I felt my ancestors’ roots ,customs and traditions!!! Vietnam’s people are very different to China but both are very a proud people!

This is the New Year feast:

28166884_10155064180336277_8221428710546170787_n

Here in Wollongong Chris T and I will be lunching at Taste of Xian. See Taste of Xi’an Wollongong.

1313131305c38d17-a

Update: Chris T at Taste of Xi’an today.

WIN_20180217_12_09_19_Pro

Advertisements

Looking back 20 years: the Japanese surfer

Back in 1998 I became a student again, part-time, at the University of Technology in Sydney.  A one-year course gave me lots of letters after my name: Grad Cert TESOL (UTS)! While I had been among other things ESL teacher at Sydney Boys High from 1996, I actually had no formal qualification in that field, other than the in-house training — and it was good too! — that I received at Wessex College of English in 1990.

One thing I haven’t mentioned publicly before is that Michael was so pissed off at my attracting a HECS debt that he insisted on paying the fees for me upfront — neither the first nor the last example of his generosity. He’s travelling in Vietnam right now, by the way, but you may recall we had lunch together in Surry Hills on just about the hottest day on record for Sydney.

WIN_20180107_13_02_21_Pro

One highlight (of many) in that 1998 UTS course was a learning journal: My year with a Japanese Backpacker. You can read the whole thing there. Here is part:

19 August, 1998

I first met ‘Hiro’ a month ago at the Flinders Hotel. He had just finished an eight week English course and had to move out of his home-stay accommodation the following Saturday, or so I gathered after a very tortuous conversation. A few days later he rang to let me know he had found a place in an Eastern suburb near the Harbour. I did not hear from him again until the night before last when he rang to arrange a meeting. After sorting out that Neil was my name and not the name of the hotel, we managed to make an appointment for Tuesday at 6 at the Flinders Hotel. Our communication obviously succeeded as he turned up at the appointed time.

His English pronunciation is clear. The text of his talk is heavily reliant on content words (in the right order) but very weak on inflections and grammatical words. His strategic competence is highly developed. Conversation required intense concentration on both sides with (at stages) frequent recourse to body language, paraphrase, repetition and a Japanese-English dictionary. The month spent living with an English speaker, looking for work, and generally going about town has led to some advance in his spoken English.

He had mentioned at our earlier meeting that he would like to practise his English with me. Since he is a very handsome young man, and since I had met him in a gay bar after all, there were dimensions to this situation. I determined to explore the situation tactfully, but I have not seen any analysis of the appropriate registers and genres for dealing with such a cross-cultural situation with someone of very limited English.

His family grows flowers, he told me, and he himself wanted work in photography, art or floristry. In the context of Australian culture one might by now have been drawing probably false conclusions about his being in a gay bar. (It proved to be a false deduction: he was unaware he was in a gay bar. The delicate matter of sexuality was successfully negotiated at our second meeting.)

From the age of six he had wanted to go overseas; an uncle had been living in America at that time, and it was to America he first wanted to go, but the pictures in an Australian travel brochure persuaded him to come here. He was drawn by Australia’s natural beauty and the surfing. So he sold his car (a Subaru) and came last May.

He said he wanted to experience all things. He wanted to meet Australian men. He wanted to learn English. Most interestingly, he wanted ‘a big heart’; eventually I worked out he meant an open mind–he found Japan too narrow.

Our conversation turned to religion. Having heard a sermon at a funeral he began practising Zen meditation. Asked what he got from it, he said ‘Nothing. Nothing is good.’ In the context this made perfect sense. We looked up dharma and Tao in his dictionary and discussed them wordlessly, as is appropriate.

At the end of the evening he proposed we meet again in a month or so, hesitant to be too demanding as I had been telling him how busy I was. In parting, we thanked each other for a very pleasant evening, and the best English lesson he could have had.

His real name was Kyohiko, from Sendai, a place much affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Yes, I have wondered, but I don’t know.

Sequel: 23 March 2000

“Hiro” returned to Japan at the end of May 1999. In the last six months of our friendship we met monthly to go to a jazz bar near my home. My Shanghainese flatmate was a bit dubious about “Hiro” at first, but towards the end, as he was planning his own 12 months overseas “pilgrimage”, he and “Hiro” found they had a lot in common! The other nice thing about “Hiro” was that, while straight, he did not have a homophobic bone in his body! Makes you feel hopeful about the world

Looking back at 2017 — 6

From  June 2017.

A week of multicultural yums

Posted to Facebook yesterday: Today real Xi’an street food at Taste of Xi’an Wollongong, yesterday lamb chops at City Diggers, last Sat halal Lebanese at Samara’s. Go Oz! Not all is bad here, eh! A friend, Matthew da Silva in Sydney responded: On Thursday had Egyptian for lunch in Enmore, yesterday had Korean for dinner in the CBD and today had Thai for lunch in Newtown.

Yums indeed! See also Taste of Xi’an Wollongong, and Munching against the fear of “the other”….

Screenshot - 24_07_2016 , 8_40_05 AM1105137_terracottaroujiamo
Xi’an roujiamo

1313131305c38d17-a
Steamed lamb broth

My roujiamo and broth totalled just $14.50! Again, yum!

Testing for English competence?

On Facebook yesterday I posted with reference to Could you pass the proposed English test for Australian citizenship? The author of that, Misty Adoniou, is Associate Professor in Language, Literacy and TESL, University of Canberra. I was from 1990-2010 for much of the time a teacher of ESOL or ESL in a private language college, at a state high school, at an Anglican school, and as a private tutor, so I have had a professional interest. My post:

This is outrageous! If this had been the case twenty years ago my friend M, a very successful citizen indeed, would have failed, as would more successful citizens than you could poke a stick at, including quite a few Anglos born here! IELTS Band 6? A stupid suggestion — and as a retired ESL/ESOL I know that test well. “Aspiring Australian citizens will need to score a Band 6 on the general stream of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test, the same score as those seeking entry to Australia’s top university” This requirement MUST NOT pass. Stupid Dutton!

I am marginally less excited this morning, but not much…

The Australian government has been proposing among other things a strengthening of the English Language requirements for those aspiring to be Australian citizens. (That link to a PDF currently works, but typically as with any government discussion paper could disappear at any time.)

English language is essential for economic participation and social cohesion,
and there are certain standards that must be met, especially for those
who are seeking to become a permanent resident or Australian citizen.

There is strong public support to ensure aspiring citizens are fully able
to participate in Australian life, by speaking English, our national language.
Aspiring citizens are currently required to possess a level of ‘basic’ English
to meet the requirements for citizenship. This is tested when an applicant
sits the Australian citizenship test.

Aspiring citizens will be required to undertake separate upfront English
language testing with an accredited provider and achieve a minimum
level of ‘competent’.

People currently exempt from sitting the Australian citizenship test, for example
applicants over 60 years of age, or under 16 years of age at the time they
applied for citizenship or those with an enduring or permanent mental
or physical incapacity, will be exempt from English language testing.

The test most people will confront is the internationally respected  IELTS test.  I have worked with this test in the past. This SBS page summarises well:

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton also outlined in a press release that the English test that applicants will be required to pass involve will involve elements of reading, writing, listening and speaking. This is thought that it will therefore make it equivalent to IELTS level 6.

What does “competent” mean here?

Let’s see how the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is scored as a comparative benchmark to define a “competent” English level.

IELTS measures the language proficiency of people who want to study or work where English is used as a language of communication. The test assesses areas including listening, reading, writing and speaking – in less than three hours.

According to the IELTS official site, there are two types of IELTS tests: Academic and General Training.

The General Training type, which focuses on basic survival skills in broad social and workplace contexts, is normally considered easier than the Academic type, and is already a requirement for migration to Australia.

It is therefore more likely to assume that Government’s citizenship test will look at the standard of the General type….

Currently, for international students in Australia hoping to study full-time in a recognised education institution, they need need an overall IELTS score of 5.5 for Academic type.

However, most universities set their English proficiency requirement at an overall score of 6.5. For University of Sydney, many faculties and courses actually require an overall band score of 7.0 or better with a minimum score of 6.0 in each of the components.

It is therefore quite hopeful to assume that the new English requirement shall not be a significant obstacle for those young people who successfully manage to accomplish a degree, migrate and live in Australia before applying for citizenship.

ilets1_0
Labor is exaggerating when they say the test is “university level”, but I still feel the proposal, even if it refers to Band 6 on the General IELTS in listening, reading, writing and speaking, is setting the bar unreasonably high. As Misty Adoniou says:

I prepared students for the IELTS test when I lived and taught in Greece. They needed a score of 6 to get into Foundation courses in British universities. It wasn’t an easy test and sometimes it took them more than one try to succeed.

My students were middle class, living comfortably at home with mum and dad. They had been to school all their lives and were highly competent readers and writers in their mother tongue of Greek.

They had been learning English at school since Grade 4, and doing private English tuition after school for even longer. Essentially they had been preparing for their IELTS test for at least 8 years.

They were not 40-year-old women whose lives as refugees has meant they have never been to school, and cannot read and write in their mother tongue.

Neither were they adjusting to a new culture, trying to find affordable accommodation and a job while simultaneously dealing with post-traumatic stress and the challenge of settling their teenage children into a brand new world.

I strongly suspect that if I were to spring a battery of IELTS tests on the usual clientele at City Diggers in Wollongong a rather alarming number — all of them citizens and many born here, including “Anglos” — would fail to make Band 6 in one or more of the skill areas. Of course they are all nonetheless competent as citizens.

A curious justification for tightening English is some apparent connection to resisting terrorism:

Recent terrorist attacks around the world have justifiably caused concern
in the Australian community. The Government responds to these threats
by continuing to invest in counter-terrorism, strong borders and strong
national security. This helps to ensure that Australia remains an open,
inclusive, free and safe society.

In the face of these threats, there is no better time to reaffirm our
steadfast commitment to democracy, opportunity and our shared values.

The English Test is after all part of that package, and on those grounds alone I feel Labor has been justified in sending it back to the drawing board.

As far as I know I have not met any terrorists, but I have been up close and personal with a well-known member of  Hizb ut-Tahrir, as I recount here and here.

This goes back to 2005 and a particularly interesting if controversial event. On the day I was not there, as I had to attend a meeting of ESL teachers at Erskineville – or was it Arncliffe, one of the last such meetings for me as I retired the following year. But I did know all the participants at The Mine end, and I posted on it at the time and the following year. See Salt Mine and Islamic Students; 7.30 Report: The Mine and the Islamists; The Mine and the Islamists: cause for concern?. On Floating Life Apr 06 ~ Nov 07 there is also a major entry from April 2006.

What I found yesterday was a video on YouTube of the complete 2005 Seminar [still there at 9 Oct 2014] referred to in those entries. The controversy centred on the guest speakers, Sheik Khalid Yassin and Hizb ut-Tahrir’s Wassim Doureihi. These people would fall in one of Michael Burleigh’s inner circles (see previous entry) but not necessarily, of course, into the innermost circle. While I had concerns about the Mine students involved, I very much doubt they would have even considered the innermost circle – quite the opposite in fact. (I also refer to these students in my Cronulla 2005 posts.)

05shs

Stills from the video.

Mine students often show initiative, of course, and these particular students were very bright indeed and participated in all aspects of school life to the full. An earlier generation some ten years before promised they would have Barry Crocker and Kamahl at their farewell assembly. We thought they were joking, but on the day, there they were! The Tamils were especially happy. So were the office ladies.

What I can say is that Wassim and company would have had no trouble passing IELTS at a very high level, so what is Mr Dutton actually doing?

peterdutton_potato_0
You know who…

Related: it is worth taking the challenge of this article from 2015. And also along the lines we are freaking out rather more than we should, read Londoner Stephen Liddell from 10 June 2017: Talk of Terrorism is all hype. He posts this, figures relating presumably to the UK:

img_4158

Do check my other posts tagged “terror”.

Recent excursions and events, Sydney and Wollongong

First was this:

My Invitation(2)[123]

Helen, nee Christison, is my cousin. See also Christmas snippetsSELRES_8d6fe2a9-ce01-4673-a6a2-e64ec2c4fd0eSELRES_b76d63f3-9187-468d-be70-81f364309127SELRES_1d83624b-0146-499c-b430-c81f28033597SELRES_1d83624b-0146-499c-b430-c81f28033597SELRES_b76d63f3-9187-468d-be70-81f364309127SELRES_8d6fe2a9-ce01-4673-a6a2-e64ec2c4fd0e. It was a delightful day. There were some there that I had not seen since that wedding in Caringbah in 1968!

Yesterday to Sydney for Yum Cha with M and Nicholas Jose. M is off to Shanghai then S-E Asia at the end of this month. He will be away for two months.

Yum Cha was at Zilver:

To Chinatown and back

Great day yesterday, complicated only by Chris T just missing the 9.47 express to Sydney which departed with me aboard spot on 9.47. Chris T was in the lift descending to the platform at that moment, but he caught the next an hour  later and eventually found us in Zilver.

1358464792305

Addenda to previous post: Deng Thiak Adut and more

Thought of January 2016, given recent African youth crime stories: How inspiring! Deng Thiak Adut’s Australia Day address. See also in October 2017 Deng Thiak Adut: ‘Refugees are not here to do miracles’.

Despite his achievements, Deng warns against expecting all refugees who arrive in Australia to become overnight success stories.

“Refugees are not here to do miracles,” he says. “They are here to be assisted. They suffer from long-term trauma…You can’t expect them to get out there and succeed. They need help. They need personal contact. They need psychological assistance, they need counselling. They need support in terms of jobs.”…

“There is a problem in this country,” he says, calling attention to the many forms of discrimination – based on race, religion, sexuality, ability – found in the community. “Those who are on the fringe, they are people who look like me. We sit at the same table. I have to protect them. I have to voice their concerns. I will listen to them.”
Deng’s brother John was also a university graduate, with a double degree in anthropology and international development. He was “discriminated against”, says Deng, and unable to find work in his field in Australia. He returned to South Sudan where he was tragically killed in 2014.

2963412041

For context: see an oral history project recording the migration journeys and settlement experiences of southern Sudanese refugees now living in Blacktown, Western Sydney. See also Who are Australia’s South Sudanese? and South Sudanese honored Philip Ruddock in NSW during the refugee’s week.

Philip Ruddock was a Minister of Immigration when he travelled to Kakuma more than a decade ago. His mission led to the mass migration of the South Sudanese refugees who were stationed in Kakuma refugee camp. During the 2015 refugee day, South Sudanese and other marginalised areas Community Association in NSW honoured Philip for his care.

NOTE: My point in these two posts has been that whatever the undoubted bad that those young thugs have been doing — and may all the relevant authorities and leaders work on that! — I am sick of the panic being whipped up for naked political purposes, such as the next Victorian election. So I praise and agree with ‘Too much panic, not enough perspective’ and totally deplore this phenomenonon: Victoria’s African community ‘stereotyped, victimised’ for the sins of young kids.