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TEACHING ENGLISH IN CHINA

Popularity 23Viewed 6874 times 2014-5-14 18:48 |System category:News

Last week, I visited my American friend who is in China teaching English for 20years now. I was in a company of my East African friend when we visited this American friend. One funny question which this American friend asked me was as follows;
"You guy, how many languages do speak?"
I told him that I speak more than three languages, English, Chinese Mandarin, French and some other African languages.
He then laughed and looked at me before he made his comment saying:
"In America, a person who speaks more than three languages, we call him multilingual while the one who speaks two languages is called bilingual  ... - the one who only knows one language is called 'AMERICAN' .."
ofcourse as an African kid, I swallowed my pride and encouraged myself to laugh at the cracked joke!
The point here, I want to make is that of teaching English in China, there many Americans, Indians, Europeans and few Africans teaching English to this Middle country called China. For Africans, I know mostly are Ghanians, Nigerians and Kenyans with few Sierra leonese while almost southern African countries are not up for English teaching positions in China despite being good at British English, the queen's language as it is referred to.
 
Most African English teachers, I have met in China have been sharing different stories on the other side of teaching English; One east African lady, who has a Masters degree in English language said she was being paid 35RMB per hour while another lady from same East  Africa doing Bachelors degree in Medicine, went for a job interview and lying that she comes from a certain European country, she got the job and was being paid 300 RMB per hour. A professor in Psychology from South Africa was receiving 7000 RMB per month and I have another American Philosopher who has been in China for 24 years now and he gets three times more than this South African professor. You might wonder where do i get all these, seriously i like interacting with people and let me say here, though I am in China but I have more Americans friends than the natives, I guess maybe the language contributes to this.
This other day, I met another American friend whom I can describe as very open minded, he is a director at school and I asked him about his education and he told me that after his high school, he then obtained a certificate in something like vocational capentry. Now, at the school he is teaching and being crowned as the director, there are some other people from other countries who have qualifications in teaching up to Masters degree but they are merely teachers and even paid lower than him.
 
Now I realized that teaching English in China does not need qualification, but geographical position of where you come from and the English Accent matters. No matter how smart you might be in English scholarly rules, the grammar and friends, but as long as you come from a country not recognized, your English is almost Chinese mandarin.
I am not a teacher of English and I am sure I will never be but a word of caution to Chinese parents, is that the world is becoming a global village little by little, an African english accent might be important to your kid with issues like Sino-African relationship, your kid might be employed or sent to Nigeria or West Africa for a diplomatic mission and pidgin English will play a role. A good example is what I heard on BBC (British Broadcasting Coorporation), an American Ambassador to Nigeria was captured speaking Nigerian English in March this year and it was on BBC. James F. Entwistle, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria visited Wazobia FM (a radio station that transmits only in Nigerian pidgin English) and broadcasts to tens of millions.
 
In one of my blogs I said i was interviewing Chinese students who are to start Postgarduate  studies this september; the problem with many of them is listening skills from a range of accents. For someone who knows English, he should not be panicing when he visits London or New York and gets into a Bank and found that it is an African who is to help him and with an African English accents you get stack. Its good to atleast appreciate a wide range of accents from Indian accent, to Chinese, through African to ghetto accents in America and official accents to the British original accents that is if you want to hear from the world not one side.
 
As a scientist or other fields if you are to attend world conferences where you meet different professors from all over the world speaking english differently, you will appreciate what i am saying; This is based on experience!
 
African kid will  remain neautral on the issue!

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-5-14 23:28
You make many good points  .. The Queen's English is not the only English accent worth listening to. On that guy with vocational carpentry qualification, who become the director - perhaps he BUILT  the school?  
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-5-15 10:18
I feel sorry for many Africans who are in such situations. In Harbin we have similar situations however I feel it can be worse sometimes. I knew a Canadian guy who got rejected from a school simply for being black. Apparently the students and parents would be scared of him. I think it's absolutely outrageous. I think both Geography and skin colour sadly play a role and I hope it changes soon.

and definitely be proud of speaking multiple langauges.

Great blog
Reply Report teamkrejados 2014-5-15 10:21
Using music, or at least the concept of music and rhythm helps understand the mysteries of listening to a foreign language, don't you think?
Reply Report firstjeremy 2014-5-15 15:58
During my past three years in my college I also met several foreign teachers,not all  of them were capable of teaching,but I do think the main purpose for hiring  foreign teachers are that trying to creat a foreign environment for us!Let's us know more about foreign accent,culture and custom!
Reply Report claudeckenni 2014-5-15 16:47
Being able to speak English and being able to teach English, is two different things. I have a Ukrainian friend who had Master Degree in English and the school in China refuse him when he apply to become a teacher because he is NOT A NATIVE SPEAKER.
Reply Report juzunme 2014-5-15 17:20
I suppose Jeremy is right in that learning the language is just part of an overall cultural immersion and that's what they're trying to get from native speakers. That being said, I've an Aussie friend who indicated he was stunned by grasp of English grammer by the locals when teaching there as he was rather weak in this area. The only thing he can offer is the spoken language and his culture.
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-5-15 17:41
claudeckenni: Being able to speak English and being able to teach English, is two different things. I have a Ukrainian friend who had Master Degree in English and t ...
It's weird, being a native speaker I often find the foreign trained speakers are more knowledgeable about the intricacies of the English language than we are.
Reply Report Gabrial521 2014-5-15 17:59
Remind me of my frst foreign english teacher .She comes from philippine .I don't think she has any accent probelm .After all ,what really matters is thoughts not accents. People who are subjected to unfair treatment tend to be more strong !
Reply Report ExileMick 2014-5-15 18:29
As is to be expected, your American friend showed his ignorance of English. The correct word is a 'polyglot'.
Reply Report xuedongi60 2014-5-15 18:45
claudeckenni: Being able to speak English and being able to teach English, is two different things. I have a Ukrainian friend who had Master Degree in English and t ...
Totally agree,being able to speak English and being able to teach English,is two different things.As a Chinese college student,we have learnt many words,but we do not know how to express our ideas,we do not have an English thinking when we speak English and we always like to use our mother tongue's ways of  thinking which we mostly do translation word by word.My foreign teacher is a native speaker,but he do not know how to help us develop a habit of English thinking when we speak English.
Reply Report chessgame 2014-5-15 19:05
ColinSpeakman: You make many good points  .. The Queen's English is not the only English accent worth listening to. On that guy with vocational carpentry qualificati ...
you mean the guy got the job after roofing the school building and fit the doors and windows?or was it a double blessing to the school to get some one who can teach english and do the furnitures too there by reducing cost and stress of dealing with two different workers?     colinspeakman,you won't stop killing me with your instant jokes.it amazes me how you pick out good hunor in people's comment without step on toes.i am very impressed with your imagination.
Reply Report chessgame 2014-5-15 19:15
teamkrejados: Using music, or at least the concept of music and rhythm helps understand the mysteries of listening to a foreign language, don't you think?
the issue here is that kids are not even taught niether by their parents or teachers that there are people with different colors and races.sure they can be scared,it's spontaneous but after the first time of such reaction.parents should atleast tell the kid what is all about.the parents as dumb as they are, will make the situation worst by filling the kids mind with negative ideas.most chinese are still living in the 60"s and ontil their negative attitude is burried,things are not going to change any soon.
Reply Report chessgame 2014-5-15 19:22
firstjeremy: During my past three years in my college I also met several foreign teachers,not all  of them were capable of teaching,but I do think the main purpo ...
the main purspose of hiring foreign teachers in most schools in china is purely on business terms.schools play with the minds of chinese parents.English is getting influence in china and most parents think with english children can land good jobs.that seems true but who teaches the english is what matters.in china any one with a white skin is a good bet.schools with foreign teachers gets more students than those without.it's all about business.ripping profit is the altimate goal of most institutions in china.
Reply Report chessgame 2014-5-15 19:26
ExileMick: As is to be expected, your American friend showed his ignorance of English. The correct word is a 'polyglot'.
and he has been teaching english for 20 years and making three times the money of non native speakers.thanks for that information.i was clueless on that.was about to google that.you spare me the time.
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-5-15 22:39
chessgame: you mean the guy got the job after roofing the school building and fit the doors and windows?or was it a double blessing to the school to get some one ...
You are too kind!  
Reply Report jiewei798 2014-5-15 22:49
You bring up a lot of interesting points and relevant issues. Sometimes it bothers me that I get paid more (or so I'm told) that the Chinese teachers at my school who have degrees in English linguistics and I don't even know what a dependent clause is, but then there are also times where these teachers struggle to hold a conversation in English. I just wish Chinese employers/schools/parents/whatever weren't so judgmental about where you are from and looks and focused more on ability.
Reply Report firstjeremy 2014-5-15 22:56
chessgame: the main purspose of hiring foreign teachers in most schools in china is purely on business terms.schools play with the minds of chinese parents.Engli ...
Haha,I agree with you partly!
Reply Report Jackxingr 2014-5-16 10:32
English learners in China make more attention to remember more words and speak more standard. Most of those pepole think that a foreigner come from Europe or US or UK can help more in the two aspect. but they don't recognize the most important is how to use English in the daily life.
Reply Report thomas.wood 2014-5-16 11:05
It's good that people learn to listen to a variety of different accents.  As the world becomes more globalised, you're often going to find the situation of two non-native speakers of English speaking English together to communicate.  The more accents you hear, the better prepared you will be for these situations.  Within countries there are huge variations in regional accents - someone from LIverpool sounds nothing like someone from Cornwall for example.  With bigger countries, I imagine there will be greater variation.

If you twist it round to Chinese, it's like saying that all Chinese teachers in middle schools in Sichuan should be replaced with teachers from Beijing as teachers in Sichuan will have a strong accent and the teachers from Beijing will teach children to speak with an authentic Mandarin Chinese accent.  Ridiculous.

Accents are fun and keep things varied.  It would be boring if we all spoke the same way.  I once watched an Al-Jazeera programme about Chinese people moving to live in Zambia which featured a young Chinese girl, probably about eight or nine, speaking English with the local accent.  Not only was this very cute, it means she can be understood and will mean that she will fit in better with her local friends as they all speak the same way.
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-5-16 15:26
chessgame: you mean the guy got the job after roofing the school building and fit the doors and windows?or was it a double blessing to the school to get some one ...
Thank you!  

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