1、Australian ESL Teacher Presents His Viewpoints
Lixin: Mr. Shaw, as an experienced ESL teacher, how long have you been in China?
Mr. Bill Shaw: I've been in China for nearly five years. I just finished teaching in a college and was invited to PEN (Patrick English Network).
Li: What kind of subjects do you usually teach?
Mr. Shaw: English, mainly spoken English, specializing in conversation. I think it's a big disadvantage of Chinese students. They all have very good written and reading capabilities, but when they come to speaking and listening, they get dumbfounded. Unfortunately, Chinese students don't get enough practice. I find that very hard because the students all learn English, but they don't tend to get together and talk English to each other. But they have to speak English, and only in this way they learn a lot faster. For the students going overseas to study, they have to practice more because they'll need to survive straight away in English.
Li: Yes, they have to do so, but that requires extensive exposure to the English environment. What should our Chinese students do then?
Mr. Shaw: Yes, that's true. Because most of the students that are more advanced here in China with their spoken English have had good exposure by working for foreign companies or have had the experience of traveling overseas. But they do seek out good English magazines such as your English Salon and read them regularly. Besides, they also seek out English corners and practice their English a lot.
Li:Just now you mentioned that you teach spoken English, specializing in conversation. Could you say something about it?
Mr. Shaw: You know, I teach my students how to start a conversation and how to keep the conversation going, but at the same time, keep it short and simple, so the person you are talking to wouldn't be bored. To start a conversation with a foreigner, for example, there is a right way and there is a wrong way. The wrong way is to walk up to a foreigner and say, “ Hey, can I teach you Chinese and you teach me English?” Ha! That happens too many times. You know, the right way is to go along and say to a foreigner, “ Oh, good morning or good afternoon. Welcome to Beijing.” And then a nice polite introduction will go a long way. That person will think, “ Oh, this is a nice person.” and will say, “ Oh, good morning. Nice to meet you too.” The next thing is to introduce yourself and ask questions, such as “ Where are you from?” In this way, the conversation goes along very good. Actually, the Chinese students are practicing their English with far more polite manners. Furthermore, instead of walking up to a foreigner and say, “ Hey, let me show you Beijing.” , you can say in other ways. Always remember, politeness accounts to a lot.
Li: But for politeness, there is a different criterion in China.
Mr. Shaw: Oh, for sure. This is something that I teach in class. I teach them the common thing is that you shouldn't keep others too long from what they are going to do. As an example, the children from central Java in Indonesia who can speak English use the same method. They go to the tourist spots and talk to the tourists, but they don't talk to a tourist more than five or ten minutes. They politely say, “ Thank you very much for your time. We hope you enjoy your stay here.” And then go on their way to find another tourist. While for Chinese students, they've got to learn not to be shy. I'm trying hard in my class to teach them to overcome their shyness, because a lot of these students are going overseas to study. In a new place, they tend to be too shy to make foreign friends. They very quickly go looking for Chinese friends.
Li: For most language learners,they may find it difficult to choose the right style to begin a conversation.What do you think?
Mr. Shaw:Yes,here in China I find people are quite open with the questioning.I have to teach my students that you cannot ask that type of questions to western people, because we would turn around and say, “ Hey, that's not your business.” I teach them the basic rules,such as: you don't ask a lady her age.We don't discuss money even among the best friends.And the other thing is we never discuss anything about religion or politics.These are all common things to know.For Chinese students,they'll have to bear in mind that when you go away,you are not just another person, you are an ambassador for your country. So,if you give people in another country one bad impression, you give all of your people a bad impression.That's why politeness is very important.
Li: So for Chinese students, they have to prepare to fit in a western culture before going overseas.
Mr. Shaw: Oh, yes. They have to prepare for the culture. That's why we spend a lot of time discussing about culture shock so that my students wouldn't feel lonely at a new place facing a new culture and could get used to the culture as soon as possible.
Li: Mr. Shaw, may I ask what other skills do you teach in class?
Mr.Shaw: Well, I teach them listening skills. For those going away to study or work in an English environment, they have to learn to listen, because they need to know what is bouncing back to them so as to reply. Sometimes, what bouncing back to them is so quick, they are shocked, “ Oh, what did he say? ” They are not prepared for a very quick reply. I always encourage my students back home to watch television. I encourage them to listen to the English programmes on TV and in radio as much as they can. One thing with listening skills is trying to listen as a questioning to make sure you have comprehended. Here I want to mention that don't rely on an electronic dictionary, find a good dictionary and use it wisely. By wisely I mean to read all the meanings instead of the first meaning. A really good dictionary with many meanings and many phrases can show you how to use the word, while the electronic dictionary doesn't.
Li: After the English learners having improved their listening, what would you recommend them to do?
Mr. Shaw: I would recommend them to buy good English storybooks and read them. But novel is a challenge, few people could really finish a novel, while for a magazine, one can easily finish one article a day. The variety of a magazine provides the readers with an important cultural experience. I think, short and simple article with good facts can help English leaners as much.