Teach English in DaiqintalA Sumu - Xing'an Meng — Hinggan

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In this summative task I am going to discuss some of the many challenges that I have encountered while working as an ESL teacher in a private institute in China, more specifically those related to culture and the workplace. Culture: To begin with, if you come from a western country, like me, you will surely find some great disparities between yours and Chinese culture. These disparities can be found in a variety of contexts while living in China, but the ones we are interested here are those present in the teaching context. One particularity of the Chinese teaching culture is its strict methods. Children learn mainly by drilling vocabulary and structures over and over again. As a result, even though students do not find it particularly difficult to learn new English vocabulary, they tend to learn sentences by heart instead of understanding the meaning of what they are actually saying. So I think the Activate stage of the lesson is especially important here, in order to encourage students to use their vocabulary as creatively as possible, in a variety of contexts. Another challenge related to culture is the preparation of lesson material and new vocabulary. It is very easy to forget that what is common sense for us might not be so for other cultures. That is why I needed to be careful when I taught new vocabulary not to alienate students for example by showing them pictures that they cannot relate to. For example I once had to teach house vocabulary to children at beginner level, and I was making a PPT presentation to present the new words along with images. Suddenly I realised that the image I had chosen for the word “house” was a typical American house that had nothing to do with the Chinese houses, so it was going to be extremely hard for them to be able to grasp its meaning. What is more, after doing a bit of research, I found out that actually most people in China do not live in houses but in apartments. So I searched for images of Chinese houses instead and added “apartment” to the vocabulary, a word that even though is not easy, it has a real connection to their own lives so the students actually have a motivation to learn it. Workplace: One of the most evident and difficult challenges that I faced when I started working in China was the language. Opposite to other English teachers working in China, I was the only full-time foreign teacher in my school and even though I had a basic knowledge of Mandarin, the specific work-related vocabulary and the local dialects made it pretty hard to communicate with my co-workers, because most of them had no knowledge of English. Furthermore, work meetings were held in Chinese and most of it was too fast and complex to understand so I depended on someone else to translate the important points back to me. Luckily, my boss had a very good level of English so I could always go to her if I needed to know or say something I thought was important. Another difficulty that I think is worth mentioning is related to the use of software and technology for teaching purposes. Personally, I like making use of computers and technology to teach and luckily the school where I worked had a computer in the office for the staff to use and there was also a big touchscreen computer in every classroom. This might sound ideal if we do not take into account the fact that all the software used by these devices is in Chinese, and even though they all run on Microsoft, they are still hard to figure out. On top of this, the Chinese government has a ban on most western software and web pages. This means that if you do not have VPN (which is actually illegal in China) you cannot access most of the web pages that teachers use for learning, keeping updated and finding teaching material. This means you cannot use Google to search for images or information, so you have to get used to the Chinese search engines which can be really confusing. To summarize, I think there are many challenges that an ESL teacher has to face when coming to work to China, but it is worth the struggle. It can be hard at first, but if you have some notion of what to expect, the journey will definitely be smoother. At the end of it you will have a very rich experience dealing with all sort of situations inside and outside the classroom, and you will feel that if you made it in China, you can do anything!