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Why Foreigners Can't Teach Gaokao English

Popularity 5Viewed 7768 times 2019-7-4 09:22 |Personal category:English|System category:News

I know that for promotional purposes, most Chinese English training centers say, 'Foreign English teachers can't teach English grammar to Chinese students.' I used to disagree with this. 

First, I never met a foreign English teacher who tried to teach gaokao English. And, I'm very sure that those who say that foreign teachers can't teach grammar, have also never heard a foreign teacher try to teach gaokao English. It's just an uninformed statement that promotes Chinese English training centers. No one really knows.

Second, most of the middle school and high school students that I've interviewed who were applying for my classes, have extremely poor grammar even after years of attending English classes in their schools and training centers. I've been shocked at how many of them don't know even the basic rules of English grammar. These students often come to me looking for me to rescue them. I don't do that because it is a very difficult task that I'm not interested in doing.

Third, after studying dozens of preparation materials including mock tests, hundreds of exercises and other materials that students and teachers use to prepare for gaokao English exams, I know why foreign (native speaking) English teachers can't teach Gaokao English.

What I've found in reading dozens of these gaokao English study materials and textbooks is that much of what they are tested on is not native English. It is a form of Chinese English that exists in the Chinese English educational system. It is not native English. Even a professional foreign, native English speaking teacher cannot know this special Chinese English. So, there is no way they can teach something that isn't native English.

The other obstacle, of course, is that English (in China) is taught in Chinese. These kids have never had the speaking/listening foundation of basic, daily, conversational English. Of course this can be overcome with an experienced and trained translator in the classroom who also is experienced in teaching gaokao. However, most students have no listening/speaking basis in English even after a half of a dozen years of studying it.

It is now very clear to me why it is likely true that foreign teachers 'can't teach Gaokao English.' It is a special Chinese kind of English that native speaks simply don't know.

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




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Reply Report kevinruud 2019-7-12 20:00
Congratulations! Thanks to you to reveal an easy and simple non-secret! An exam is an exam, nothing more and nothing less, that has nothing to do with language, only a tool to decide where you will have the wifi connection for your mobile phone in future.
Reply Report Mishao 2019-7-14 04:38
None of this should ever have happened in the first place,
Reply Report mbursian 2019-7-14 11:04
I've had my Chinese teaching partners try to correct my grammar.  They inevitably say that wasn't what they were taught in the university.  I ask if their instructor was a trained native English speaker or Chinese... they always answer Chinese.  I'm 65, college and university trained, and a native English speaker.  I know my grammar is correct, and if I'm uncertain, I will check with an authority on the subject.  The school I work at tells me to concentrate on pronunciation and oral speaking skills only, the students will get grammar lessons from their respective State schools.  What's the use of proper pronunciation if they can't construct a correct sentence?
Reply Report cmknight 2019-7-14 23:25
"The school I work at tells me to concentrate on pronunciation and oral speaking skills only, the students will get grammar lessons from their respective State schools.  What's the use of proper pronunciation if they can't construct a correct sentence?"

This, right here, is the reason I gave up after 11 years. I could not justify punishing myself and pulling out my own hair any longer. I was tired of hearing the excuse, "This is China. We do things differently, here". Just play games, sing songs, and get them to talk (in a university environment). Foreign teachers are a laughingstock, in China. Everyone knows they are only there to put a white face on the school, and to justify charging exorbitant fees to the parents. Those who WANT to learn, will. The majority however, are only there because they HAVE to be there. If they don't pass, they don't get their Bachelor's Degree. That's the only reason they are in that classroom. Yes, this sounds like a negative post ... but it's the TRUTH.
Reply Report MichaelM 2019-7-18 10:45
cmknight: "The school I work at tells me to concentrate on pronunciation and oral speaking skills only, the students will get grammar lessons from their re ...
I read a language expert recently who said, "Language isn't learned from grammar; Grammar is learned from language." She was a polyglot that had learned about a dozen languages. She claimed no special skills or talents.

I think that her meaning was clear. Grammar should be naturally taught on a canvas of speaking and listening. The 'internal voice' must be established first for language acquisition to be successful. It fails when grammar comes first. Speaking, reading and writing come from the internal voice that has been built through listening. A baby learns this way naturally. Chinese language is taught this way in schools. It is natural.

As I see it, grammar focus is a great way to confuse students which results in the students never acquiring the language. However, it makes the training centers rich. If you can coax the student along, yet, never teach him the language, you can milk his parents for money for a very long time.

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Michael is the author of the transformational book, Powerful Attitudes. He is a professional educator, an educational consultant, an author. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. He enjoys playing guitar and writing poetry. He loves China.


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