A Glance at the Chinese ‘English Learning Frenzy’
by Mike Lee
English language training was declared to be the second most profitable business in China at the end of 2005.
I suppose native English speaking students can never imagine six English classes every week, not including sounded reading sessions in the mornings, but this is the fact. And most Chinese students find English exceptionally difficult, and fear English tests as much as Judgment Day.
Therefore, extra lessons are arranged at school, and anxious parents determined to help their kids make them go on training courses provided by various people and organizations.
Those kids who are better at English are not much more fortunate: they are made to take tests and/or enter competitions. Some competitions promise the prize of extra points in the High School Entrance Examination. These competitions often start with about 10,000 competitors, more if they’re national.
Organizing these competitions is a great method to measure pupils’ abilities. Prize winners most probably won’t be the usual high-scorers and ‘test-machines’, but those who possess conversation skills and knowledge about English culture, which are not taught properly in most schools.
Students who have had the opportunity to study in English speaking regions mostly do very well in English at school. They are asked questions such as ‘How do you memorize words just after a glance at it?’, ‘How could you spell a word according to its pronunciation?’, etc. Well this is probably because they study English in a natural way, unlike the craming method in most schools.
Some schools, the High School affiliated to Renmin University of China (RDFZ) for instance, produce fully-qualified multilingual students with appropriate methods. Qualified teachers of English, German, Spanish, French, Russian, Korean, Japanese and Arabic are empolyed by the RDFZ, which actually out-performs many universities with language departments. Elective subjects taught in English are also available. Many delegations from overseas schools and educational agencies come to visit the school every year. And students get to practise their language and diplomatic skills.
Unfortunately, such teaching is currently available at only a few schools in large cities. Well, if schools did their work properly there won’t be as much business for English language schools. Let’s give our best wishes to English learners in China.
About the author
Mike Lee (李达健) is a high school student at The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China (人大附中) in Beijing. He’s currently learning English and German at school, and Japanese and Latin at home.
Us Brits are known for taking about the weather – ALL THE TIME! Myself included! However; the weather here in the UK is horrid! Just look below:
Towcester (pronounced as toaster) is where I am currently in. I am soggy and my hair is all curly! Not a nice curly; a horrible “not a wave, not a full curl” curls!
However; in China here is what it is like in Shanghai:
Not much better though; but it is in the middle of the night there! I would be asleep (or being merry withy colleagues) in my apartment. Stargazing is something I would be interested in; I wonder if the stars look the same in China as they do here in the UK?!
Qualifications for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.
Qualifications for TEFL teachers
Qualification requirements vary considerably, from country to country and among employers within the same country. For many institutions it is possible to teach without a degree or teaching certificate. Some institutions will consider it necessary to be a native speaker with an MA TESOL. A university degree in English language and literature can also be of value, as indeed can any specialist degree. Other institutions consider a proof of English proficiency, a University degree and a basic teaching qualification to be more than sufficient. The level of academic qualification need not be the most important qualification however as many schools will be more interested in your interpersonal skills. For trainers wishing to enter the academic field publications can be as important as qualifications, especially if they relate to English use in your field. Where there is a high demand for teachers and no statutory requirements, employers may accept otherwise unqualified candidates. Each country is different, and acceptance depends on demand for English teachers and the teacher’s previous teaching and life experiences.
As a general rule schools will tend to prefer qualifications that involve a significant amount of assessed teaching: it is often said that “Learning to teach without classroom practice is like learning to drive without ever encountering traffic”. Shorter courses, or online often lack assessed teaching practice. Course makers having recognized this and have begun introducing combined TEFL courses which have an element of assessed teaching. Private language schools are likely to require at least a certificate based on successful completion of a course consisting of a minimum of 100 hours, usually including about 6 hours of observed teaching practice.Some educational facilities are now offering two or three well defined certificates instead of one general certificate. For example ILT (Introduction to Language Teaching) – 40 hours, PLT (Practice of Language Training) – 30 hours, and Literacy – 30 hours.
Age/gender requirements might also be encountered. In some countries outside Europe and America, for example the Middle East, schools might hire men over women or vice versa. And they might hire only teachers in a certain age range; usually between 20 and 40 years of age. Anyone under 19 may be able to teach TEFL, but usually only in a volunteer situation, such as a refugee camp.
Internet-based TEFL courses can vary in quality, but most are accepted worldwide and particularly in Asia where the largest jobs markets exist in China, Korea and Japan.
It is difficult to express exactly what it means to be a white person in a lesser known Chinese city. You are both celebrity and minority, you are a joke and you are a commodity, you are exotic and yet also a nuisance.
What it also means though is that you get approached to do all sorts of exciting things. A friend of mine has a job as a senior branding consultant for an Egyptian Ad agency because he isn’t Chinese, countless numbers of my friends teach English on the weekends for cash and a number of others have internships that require them to do more than just get the coffee.
It was not exactly surprising then when a number of us were recruited to judge English language debates at a Ningbo High School. It was apparently the provincial finals of a national competition and its hard to come by…
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