Last week, Mao and I met for our second session. Unfortunately her mother had to have surgery a couple weeks prior, so Mao was very busy taking care of her while she recovered, and we were unable to meet during that time. Also, I had to find new software to record our sessions, and due to some technical issues I was unable to record my own voice or video.
We started out talking about different types of people. She explained that the Chinese word "Jai nan" describes a male who likes to stay indoors and fix things, and she thinks that I am one (and she isn't entirely off-base). I asked if it's good or bad, and she said it's neither - it's just a description. I tried to think of English equivalents - introvert came to mind but that's more of a personality type, and options like hermit or recluse generally have socially negative connotations. The distinction intrigued me and made me think of personality archetypes, so I introduced her to the word. I did this as an exercise in helping her make L2 connections, as I mentioned in the previous post. I asked her if she knew the word abstract, and she said she had learned it but didn't quite remember. So we talked about the difference between abstract ideas and concrete ideas - and how abstract concepts are things that are generally understood through other words. I explained how words like good and evil are abstract ideas that we deal with on a regular basis, and those concepts can be built on to make larger abstracts. We spoke about superheroes and villains, and the way that those two classifications are character archetypes that commonly boil down to the struggle of good vs. evil. I asked if she understood and could explain what archetype means in her own words, and she got part of it, but extending the description beyond superheroes was difficult for her to express.
I admit that this was a very difficult exercise for her, but I wanted to see where her abilities lie. In a class on the principles of second language acquisition, I learned about Vygotsky and the Zone of Proximal Development, a tool used between tutor and pupil to assess the pupil's level of skill in a certain field. After this session, I feel that I have a much better understanding of Mao's English skills and what our ZPD encompasses, and will use it to better communicate with her and hopefully teach her more in the future.