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Teaching Senior Adults - Language Barrier

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I teach basic wheel throwing to a diverse group of senior adults.  I have 3 Asian senior adult students in a class of about 20 students.  One of these students is a Korean woman that has very limited understanding of the English language.  I try to speak slowly, but she does not understand the words I say.  I do have two or three Caucasian  students that don't mind trying to help her, but still there's the language barrier.  The other Asian students are of different ethnicity, with having cultural differences, they rather spend class time on their own pieces.  After 5 weeks, she has figured out the first step to throwing is properly centering the clay.  Right now her successes in centering is hit and miss.  I foresee challenges teaching this student glaze application.

Any suggestions? 

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Sounds like to me she needs some visuals showing the steps to throwing. Poster used to do the trick in the old school days, but in this day and age there are several videos out the that should help you out. This would work especially if you can find some with Korean speakers in them. Posters and diagrams, handouts and process step materials would also be helpful to all as a step by step organization of the throwing process. Easy enough to  do with pictures and Word.




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Good idea Pres.

May I suggest that @scottiebie considers trying to enlist the help of those Korean speakers on the forum. Perhaps by starting  a new thread (with a title something like "Korean-language beginning-throwing videos and posters needed") explaining the problem. Maybe one of the more mainstream groups such as Studio Operations and Making Work would be more likely to catch their eye.

A very superficial search suggests that English speakers might easily get overwhelmed by the number of Korean-language items on throwing Korean-style pottery (usually by experts).

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Focused demo:
If the student is comfortable with your focused attention, set a wheel next to them or facing them (whichever is better for the student - many people are more anxious when faced, but there are exceptions) and demonstrate the one or two* steps/skills that are key for that student, then follow up after some practice.
You try.
Good, keep at it, I'll be back.
A lot can be said without words ...Do This. First This. Next, This. I like you. I care about you.

Build common vocabulary:
Choose key terms and systematically add to the common vocabulary. Point, say. Now you say.
Yes, no, clay, bat, fast, slow, pressure, water, uh-oh, Milk Carton Kids.
Rib, needle, stick, small sponge, big sponge, bucket; finger, foot, hand, eye.
Always take your foot off the pedal before standing up. Always take your foot off the pedal before reaching into the pan.
You might pick up some Korean from the student, if they will "play" the game.
The first phrase, and icebreaker between myself (swim coach) and star Brazilian swimmer was "Led Zeppelin" (blaring from the poolside sound system) - from there, we built a strong teacher/student, coach/athlete and friend/friend relationship. I learned to swear in Portuguese. 
The first phrases, icebreaker between a group of children just arrived from *** to the U.S., Hello and Goodbye, and what translates (loosely) to "Go With God" which serves at a greeting and farewell in the kids' language. The group learned all the "pool rules" without any common language, in just a few minutes.

It's been over four years since I completed "Wheel I" at the local Junior College, hence, my memories aren't as clear as they were, and have acquired rosy patina of "good old" days...
Any road, I definitely learned a lot more by observing the instructor and the other students than via any words, written or spoken.

*Over a few decades of teaching physical skills, I came to believe that for each student, there are one or two "things" to work on for each skill.
One or two things now, once mastered, there's next, yes, but most of us aren't able to learn dozens of "things" all at once.
The kids notice when you see where they are and have a plan for them and each of their peers as well.
Acquire or correct This skill or (more often) sub-skill; design activity or drill that "forces" the acquisition/correction.

Stick the clay on the bat. Apply centering force until the clay comes loose. Repeat. Repeat, but slower, come up to forcing the clay loose sloowly.
...now you know how much force is too much. When the clay comes loose from the bat, you are *******, start over. Good.

Hope that helps!

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Turn her on to Duolingo.

The free version would let her know if she finds it useful. I'll bet she'd really dig it-the lessons are easy, are in several fun formats, and even just 15 minutes a day builds vocabulary. She wouldn't be getting ceramics lingo, but learning the basics for greetings & other essential phrases  would be a great for the studio.

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Amen to @Hulk. I’m going to throw out some things to roll around in your head. The fact that you’re contemplating how to serve this particular student is a great credit to you as teacher and a person. 

Language is a barrier here, kick it out of the way. Use gestures, exaggerate important motions, point to what’s key to look at while you’re doing it. Nod your head for “good” or “yes,” shake it for “no.” Smile.

If you lock your elbow into your hip when centering, point to that important connection when you do it, look at your student(s), look back at what you’re pointing to. If you dip a pot in glaze for two seconds, count with your other hand visibly “out loud.” Check for understanding with your eyes. When people are confused you can see it on their face. Words are usually a smaller part of communication than we give them credit for. 

People may not understand the words you use, but the tone, rhythm, and volume of your voice translates universally. So do facial expressions, many gestures, and focused attention. People will look at what the interesting person (that’s you) is looking at. 

Awareness of these ideas, and really getting them internalized, enhances communication with all of your students. 

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