Archive for the ‘ESL’ Category

Good Day

11 July 07

I will admit that I am probably not the best ESL teacher ever. I’m hardly qualified, having only taken a short course in English teaching. Half the time I am not really sure what I am doing, I just do it. My students, thank goodness, already have a decent grasp over English grammar. What they need is to use it. Speaking is not something that is emphasized in the classroom.

So for the last month I have switched gears and changed from aviation English to oral English. Sometimes it is painful trying to think of things to do, other times it is fairly easy. Today I struck gold. I came up with this idea to write wacky, thought-provoking questions on cards and play a game with the students where each one drew a card, thought about it quickly and answered, using more than one word. I used questions like “If you could have any superhero power, what would you choose?” and “If you didn’t need to sleep, what would you do with the extra hours?”

I have 4 students in one class and 6 in the other. We all sat around a big desk and talked non-stop about the questions and other side stories that came up spontaneously. It was fun. Everyone talked. Everyone laughed.

I love days like this!

Another Fun Waste of Time

9 April 07

Supposed to be writing a paper or getting some real work done? In need of a mental break?

Another great way to waste time, brought to you by the Internet:

The Speech Accent Archive

This page contains an archive of different accents from the world over. Ever wondered what a New Zealander and a Chileno sound like when reading an English paragraph? Now is your chance to hear the difference between a speaker from Windsor, Canada and Beaumont, Texas.

I’m an accent chameleon myself, as I have mentioned before. Currently, I speak with a Canadian-tinged, Southern US-nuanced, ESL teacher’s accent.  All of that is immediately out the window if I spend more than 5 minutes with a strong British accent, however.

(An ESL teacher is recognizable for use of short phrases and monosyllabic words. They condense complex thoughts into simple ones and they may even mispronounce words or use completely made up words a la Chinglish, Spanglish, Engrish, etc.)

Happy Thanksgiving America!

23 November 06

Once again I nearly forgot about this one. I couldn’t figure out why no one was emailing today. As you can imagine, Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing & gravy is pretty hard to come by in rural China and even more difficult to recreate in a hotel room. I did have my lunch today with some of the other company employees. We ate rice, boiled peanuts, some kind of bean and shredded potatoes. Not a bad way to spend the day.

I taught my first Radio Telephony class today, which was interesting. I tried to sound as authoritative as possible even though my only real experience with aircraft radio exchanges is the 30 times I’ve seen Top Gun. I think it went okay. I have 34 students. They are all Chinese, in their 20s. They have all graduated from University and I am lucky that their English level is pretty good. Teaching is a little difficult for me because I am a very introverted person, but once I am in front of the room it is like I am onstage. And I’m one of those introverts who LOVES to be on a stage acting. Strange but true. If my mom were here blogging I’m sure she would share an embarrassing story about my overly dramatic tendencies.

Good Weather Too Good to Be True

10 March 06

I guess the weather has just been too nice and cooperative lately because today was not a nice day at all. There seems to be a layer of dust and sand just hanging over us, so much so that it is actually palpable. Evidently this is the transition to Spring – dust and sand storms. Not very pleasant. I hope it doesn’t last too long. Reminds me of Kuwait.

Anyway, the good news is that almost all of my students passed their English exams. We’ve got  two new classes starting in about a week, so I am still busy planning new lessons.  This teaching business is never ending.

At last it is the weekend and I can relax and sleep in (until 9AM). Our computer has been on the fritz again, mainly because the DH downloaded a virus, but it seems we have got that all sorted out now. I now have internet access at home again.

Mundane Update – the Daily Grind

14 December 05

Finally I have found time to update the blog! The English Department has had a busy week! We gave our final exam to some of our students and started English classes for our 4th group of students. In fact, starting tomorrow, I am going to be teaching Aviation English to part of the 4th class. This is new for me so I am trying to study up on aviation vocabulary.

Some more good news, DH and the other instructors who arrived around the same time as him, including the American T, have received permission to begin flying with their students. (They have completed all of their written and flight exams, passed an English exam, and received their license validation.)

We have been invited to a bunch of Christmas parties, including some at the Academy, some at local hotels and some at restaurants. I’ve never actually been so booked for parties before! Who knew I would have to come to China to be booked through the holidays with party invitations?

As for the weather, it just keeps getting colder. It has been around -5 to -10 most of the week. For you Americans, sorry, I just can’t think in Fahrenheit anymore! I’ve been living in the Celsius world too long now. Still no snow. This morning the sky was clear and blue with very little pollution evident. I’ve been told that it is just brutally cold in the airplanes. (Evidentally they have heaters but not very hot ones?) I’ve also been told that from the air you can also see that the lakes and rivers are frozen over.

My Chinese studies have increased three-fold. I am now doing a language exchange with two of the housekeeper girls at our hotel. They teach me Chinese and I help them with their English. I do that on Monday nights. On Tuesday and Thursdays, I have one hour of Chinese class with one of the secretaries at the Academy. In general, Chinese grammar is not difficult. They have only one verb tense – the present, and only one form regardless of the subject (I, you, he/she/it, us, y’all, they). The problem is the tones. One word has different meanings depending on how you stress it. You have a rising tone, falling tone, falling and rising tone and a high tone. Get it wrong and the meaning changes. Also, the romanization of the Chinese characters does not always sound the way it looks, at least to an American, so pronunciation is really difficult. I’m finally ready to learn this language, though. I have had too many frustrating moments where I cannot express myself, especially in taxis. I am ready to burst the language bubble!

I have been putting in really long days this week, way more than my supposed 4 hours. It’s hard work! At least at the hospital after a few 12 hour shifts we had a break of two to three days. I’m ready for the weekend already and it is only Wednesday!!! (I get “hump day” now.) I’m not complaining, I much prefer the normalcy of this kind of work!

Hopefully, something interesting will happen around here soon, so I have more to blog about than weather updates and work gripes!

My Apologies for Lack of Posts

7 November 05

I’ve been getting some complaints about the lack of blog entries lately. I know, I know. I have actually been busy this past week, but really that it is no excuse. Mostly I have just been lazy.

So what has been keeping me busy? Well, I’ve started teaching a new series of classes to the third round of students to enter the academy. Some of them needed some intensive English preparation, so instead of just doing small group tutoring, I’m doing larger classes of 10. I like this arrangement and in the long run I think it will be better for the students and for me. Instead of tutoring the students on certain themes or topics of interest, I am using an ESL textbook, (sneakily downloaded from the internet), which is more organized and complete. I’ve been working on a syllabus and the curriculum for the course, which is difficult when you’ve never done anything like that before!

In December, 60 more students will enter the academy and I’m sure many of them will also need Intensive English, so I will have to start a second series of classes. I am very hopeful that another wife will come along who wants to teach English!! We could use at least another two teachers. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of the class… So far the students seem to be cooperative!

Update on the Class

27 September 05

So the class went okay. I think it is actually easier teaching a class of 35 than just 2 or 3. We spent the whole class just doing introductions. With more students the time passes quickly, so you really have to be organized and aware of the time. I think it will be easier to do activities with a big group.

The students all speak some English, although with a huge range in ability. It will take me forever to remember all of their names, so next class we are going to do some kind of game to practice names. The problem I see a lot in China is that the style of teaching and learning is very much teacher-oriented. The teacher stands before the class and recites and the students listen. I do not think there is very much interaction. As a result, the students don’t really know how to take initiative and don’t always understand the concept of games and activities. Since I want this to be a speaking & pronunciation class, I am just going to have to get them motivated to talk. It wasn’t a problem today, everyone seemed excited.

BTW – they have chosen English names and some of them went crazy and chose things like Shrek, Eagle, and Cloud.

Miscellaneous Afternoon Thoughts

27 September 05

WOW, my office this morning is freezing. I don’t know how I am going to concentrate on lessons when all my energy is taken up in shivering. There is no AC control that I can find, so I am just gonna have to suffer it out. The good news is that I am feeling better. Whatever sort of bug I had, I guess I got rid of him. However, bad news for DH. He says that for about two days now he has felt some sort of “little smurf” or “little man” inside his stomach, trying to kick his way out. I have to admit I know the feeling. It is unusual for DH, though, because he can pretty much eat anything. Aww the joys of eating new foods….

I’ve just found out that the Aviation English teachers want me to give a speaking class to 35 students 2 times per week. I am supposed to start today, in one hour. When I asked for time to prepare lessons and activities, they told me that all I had to do was stand in front of the class and talk, that the students need to listen to a correct English accent. ?! How is that supposed to help them speak better English? One of the biggest problems in this school is communication problems between the Western flight instructors and the students. I wanted to prepare conversational and speaking activities for the students, but I am not sure how to go about it.

I am not sure how I feel about this. I have no preparation. I have no time to even think. I guess it will be fine, but I do not like to feel unprepared.