November 5, 2010

As much as I look down on racism, it’s hard to ignore a stereotype when it’s so overwhelmingly accurate in one person. This person I’m talking about is Yao Wang, my professor in Multi-variable Calculus.

Yao is a kindly middle-aged woman whom I assume is of Chinese descent.

Having never been close with any Asians during my young life, I still can’t distinguish between Asian ethnicities judged purely by someone’s face or mannerisms. It all blends into “Asian” for me. I know that’s bad, but it’s a result of my upbringing and I can’t help it.

I tried to find a picture of my professor, but her UMass staff profile has no image attached :( so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

Anyways, Yao is a small Chinese woman who teaches calculus. As if this isn’t already enough of a stereotype, she has the thickest accent out of anyone I’ve ever met. Her voice sounds just like the stereotypical impersonation of an Asian, replacing all her L’s with R’s and stumbling over English like it’s a thick patch of weeds. (I just pictured her stumbling over weeds and it was really funny.)

Poor Yao is no doubt very intelligent, but because of her difficulty with language she has trouble getting certain ideas across to her students. For example, when she talks about f(x), an equation of “x”, she’s likely to begin the topic in this way:

“Horkay, so, for “f” of “x” we need to uh, you know, rook at deh x-y prane, you know, deh x-y prane, which is where deh equation is, you know deh x-y prane. Dis is where you, uh hmmmmmmmmmm. Hmmmmm. I don’t… I don’t know what…. yea you take deh x-y prane and you get in deh equation in here and deh x-y prane…” and so on.

When I got to her class on Day 1, I was like “No way, fuck this. I have to switch to another professor.” But for some reason I stuck with her, and since then the class hasn’t been nearly as impossible as I thought it would be. I’ve picked up on her dialect now and can understand pretty much everything she says, although every now and then she still manages to gangbang a whole sentence with her broken English and completely lose the class’s attention.

Also, she’s very fond of the words “arbitrary” and “trivial” and uses them way more than a person should in their lifetime. I assume that when she was learning English (my guess is three months ago) those were her favorite new words.

Though I usually find her verbal antics amusing, she can really get under my skin when she doesn’t clarify something that she mispronounced and then it turns out later that what she said was totally different from what she meant. Like one time when we were talking about vectors she said “pararrer,” but meant “parallel.” I thought she’d said “pair” so I wrote that down and for the next five minutes didn’t realize she was talking about things that were parallel. When I noticed my notes weren’t making sense I realized the error, and out of frustration wrote “fuck” then quickly re-wrote my notes.

Nowadays I expect such errors, and whenever I lose track of the lesson because of Yao’s speech I like to draw funny pictures instead of curse words. It feels more productive.

Slappin' da bass.

Here's some water.

Avast, ye demon vector!

Arbitrary and Trivial



2 Responses to “Carcurus”

  1. Arlee Bird said

    Is she kind of cute for a middle aged woman? I have a thing for Asian women. It used to really annoy my wife, but now it doesn’t bother her too much because I don’t mention it anymore.

    Tossing It Out

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