Burning questions about teaching English in China #5: You can’t let me!

Burning questions about teaching English in China #5: You can't let me!
Puzzler #5: Why do students confuse the verbs “make” and “let”? Moving on from spelling errors and interesting ways to write letters, here’s a common error in vocabulary usage. This one puzzles me, because I had assumed the meanings of “make” and “let” are pretty clear. In fact, the two verbs are almost opposite in meaning. Yet, many students get them confused. Perhaps the trouble lies with dictionary definitions, because in looking at my own Chinese-English dictionaries, I can see their definitions could be confusing. For example, under “make” I see the Chinese word 让 ràng, which can mean “to let sb do sth.” Under the word “let,” I see the same Chinese word 让 ràng with the additional meaning of “to have sb do sth.” So, I can see how a beginning learner of English could confuse the two words. Bilingual dictionaries are great for quickly finding the meanings of words, but they often do a poor job of showing how those words are most commonly used. In fact, even the Merriam-Webster dictionary (English-to-English) can be confusing to a non-native speaker. Here is where textbooks and teachers need to step in and teach correct usage. “Make” and “let” are ...

Burning questions about teaching English in China #4: A B C D Ƶ F G

Burning questions about teaching English in China #4: A B C D Ƶ F G
This is the fourth in a series of articles about some of the puzzling aspects of teaching English as a Foreign Language in China. You can find the previous entries linked below. Puzzler #4: Why do some Chinese students write “E” with its “hat” on backwards? Like the misspellings “ture” (for “true”) and “konw” for “know”, this peculiar way of writing the upper case E has popped up in my classes each year I have taught here. Again, I have no idea why or how some students acquire this habit, because they have all presumably learned the alphabet in primary school. Could it be because some students are naturally left-handed? Is it because of Chinese character stroke order? Have computers and cellphones ruined their penmanship? Or are they just being careless? Strangely, I have not seen students write uppercase “F” in the same fashion. It’s generally written in the standard way, in manuscript form anyway. [NOTE: For my non-Chinese readers, students here learn the manuscript Latin alphabet, and by high school apparently learn a kind of italic handwriting for English. They do not learn cursive Latin handwriting, which I hear is now true in the USA, as well. I’ve found ...

Burning questions about teaching English in China #3: You konw wat?

Burning questions about teaching English in China #3: You konw wat?
The idea for these articles came to me during this past winter holiday, as I was reflecting on beginning my tenth year teaching English in China. In that time, I’ve noticed many common mistakes made by English learners and wondered why they were so common, yet so easily corrected. In other words, I wondered how it was possible for so many university students to have acquired the same bad habits, regardless of where they went to school or what their major was. So, I decided to write a series of (mostly) short articles highlighted each of these puzzling errors, in the hope that students – and their teachers – can somehow explain why they occur and how best to stop students from making these mistakes in the future. I will post them in my Qzone, on Steemit.com, and on my blog. Readers who are not familiar with English education in China need to understand that all university students have had English as a Foreign Language (EFL) instruction since middle school, and many from grade 3 in primary school. Additionally, all university majors need to take two years of English instruction and pass two national English-proficiency exams. Despite all these years ...

Burning questions about teaching English in China #2: Ture or false?

Burning questions about teaching English in China #2: Ture or false?
The idea for these articles came to me during this past winter holiday, as I was reflecting on beginning my tenth year teaching English in China. In that time, I’ve noticed many common mistakes made by English learners and wondered why they were so common, yet so easily corrected. In other words, I wondered how it was possible for so many university students to have acquired the same bad habits, regardless of where they went to school or what their major was. So, I decided to write a series of (mostly) short articles highlighted each of these puzzling errors, in the hope that students – and their teachers – can somehow explain why they occur and how best to stop students from making these mistakes in the future. I will post them in my Qzone, on Steemit.com, and on my blog. Readers who are not familiar with English education in China need to understand that all university students have had English as a Foreign Language (EFL) instruction since middle school, and many from grade 3 in primary school. Additionally, all university majors need to take two years of English instruction and pass two national English-proficiency exams. Despite all these years ...

Burning questions about teaching English in China #1: He said, she said

Burning questions about teaching English in China #1: He said, she said
The idea for these articles came to me during this past winter holiday, as I was reflecting on beginning my tenth year teaching English in China. In that time, I’ve noticed many common mistakes made by English learners and wondered why they were so common, yet so easily corrected. In other words, I wondered how it was possible for so many university students to have acquired the same bad habits, regardless of where they went to school or what their major was. So, I decided to write a series of (mostly) short articles highlighted each of these puzzling errors, in the hope that students – and their teachers – can somehow explain why they occur and how best to stop students from making these mistakes in the future. I will post them in my Qzone, on Steemit.com, and on my blog. Readers who are not familiar with English education in China need to understand that all university students have had English as a Foreign Language (EFL) instruction since middle school, and many from grade 3 in primary school. Additionally, all university majors need to take two years of English instruction and pass two national English-proficiency exams. Despite all these years ...

Chinese journalist’s on-camera eye roll lands her in hot water

Chinese journalist's on-camera eye roll lands her in hot water
ZHENGZHOU, HENAN — Honest displays of exasperation can sometimes get you in trouble in China. During an arranged Q&A session with a government official attending the national party congress meeting, a US-based reporter (at right with the mic) launched into a long-winded introduction to her softball question. Another reporter, Liang Xiangyi of China Business News, at first looks amused, then exasperated, and finally rolls her eyes toward the sky and looks away. Her honest reaction to an obvious suck-up question quickly went viral on Chinese social media, with many commenters praising her for expressing what they felt. Memes like the one below were also swiftly circulated. Then the censors jumped in and cleaned all such commentary off the ‘Net. Liang has reportedly lost her press credentials to cover the National People’s Congress now being held in Beijing. Meanwhile, netizens in the USA are questioning whether American Multimedia Television USA, the media outlet represented by the long-winded reporter, Zhang Huijun, might be connected to the Chinese Communist Party in some way. Here’s a translation of Zhang’s query. You can see Liang’s reaction to it in this YouTube clip. Similar clips have been removed from China’s video-sharing sites.

Onward to Da Nang, but not by train

Onward to Da Nang, but not by train
[Classes began last week, so please accept my apologies for delaying this post.] HANOI, VIETNAM — Now that I had settled on visiting Da Nang, in hopes of finding some warmer weather and an ocean view, the question was how to get there. My first plan was to take the overnight train from Hanoi to Da Nang. With that in mind, I figured lodging at the Mango Hotel (above), which is right next to the Hanoi train station, made sense. It was only about $22 a night and offered free breakfast, and I could walk to it from my Airbnb. Once at the hotel (which is not bad, by the way), I set about finding out how to buy train tickets for a departure two days later. The cost ranged from $40 for a soft seat to $60 for a soft sleeper berth, and the trip would take about 15 to 16 hours. On a lark, I also checked airfares from Hanoi to Da Nang. It was cheaper to fly! Only $36 for a round-trip ticket to Da Nang. So guess what I did. My lodging in Da Nang was another Airbnb within walking distance to My Khe beach. For ...

Some sightseeing in Hanoi — Hoan Kiem Lake 1

Some sightseeing in Hanoi -- Hoan Kiem Lake
HANOI — My days in Hanoi were fairly low key. For one thing, the weather was less than ideal: damp and chilly but for one day. And for two days, I was zoned out with a bad headcold, which required me to work double-time to meet an editing deadline. But once that job was complete, I wanted to do at least one or two touristy things, given that I was smack in the middle of one of Hanoi’s historical districts. The Old Quarter has a history going back several hundred years or more. I took two self-guided walking tours. The first was to West Lake (Hồ Tây), but before I reached it, I spent most of the afternoon in the Vietnam Military History Museum, which was on the way. I’ve already posted a few photos from the museum here. The second was to a smaller lake, Hoàn Kiếm, home to a Confucian temple and surrounded by many restaurants, hotels and shops. The day I visited West Lake was rather dreary, and I have few attractive photos of the area. In fact, having spent most of the afternoon at the museum, I really only got as far as Trúc Bạch Lake, ...

Some street scenes of Hanoi’s Old Quarter

Some street scenes of Hanoi's Old Quarter
Most of my photos of Hanoi were taken while I was walking from my Airbnb to get lunch or go shopping, because I really only visited two tourist sites while I was there. I hope you can get a feel for the Old Quarter of Hanoi from these shots. All photos (with one exception noted above) taken with a Nikon D3300 with Nikkor 18-55 mm kit lens. For this trip, I traveled light, and only brought one additional lens, a manual 50 mm prime, which I did not use for any of these shots.

Reflections at a Hanoi café

Reflections at a Hanoi café
HANOI, VIETNAM — While I was sitting in this little Old Quarter café, hunched over my Windows tablet working on my editing task, familiar music started playing on the stereo — The Beatles, The Doors, The Kinks, The Mamas and the Papas, The Searchers, Little Peggy March — all music that Americans would have listened to back in the 1960s and ’70s. Music that Americans serving in the Vietnam War might have listened to, when they weren’t being shot at or trying to shoot soldiers on the other side. I could have been one of those guys — maybe not in a combat position, given my poor eyesight — but during the early 1970s, as the War seemed never to end, and as my 18th birthday approached, there was a possibility that my number would come up and I’d be sent to Vietnam to serve in the war. Yet, here I was, 44 years later, sitting in a quiet café in the NORTH of Vietnam (formerly enemy territory in wartime), the only foreigner in the building and easily the oldest, listening to American and British music of that era. It was at once poignant and surreal. I wondered if any ...

On the first part of the journey …

On the first part of the journey ...
CHANGSHA, HUNAN — There was football. More about that later, though. I left Zhengzhou on Jan. 25 as a heavy snowstorm was just picking up steam. The snow was so bad that even the high speed CRH trains, which run on schedule 99% of the time, had to slow down or even stop, because of poor visibility and slick trackage. My train to Futian station in Shenzhen would normally have taken seven hours. We arrived four hours later. Second-class ticket: 735.50 yuan ($116). My plan was to stay overnight in Shenzhen anyway, and my flight to Hanoi was in two days, so no big deal. There are many bargain flights out of Hong Kong, and I love Hong Kong, so I spent the second night there. My Jetstar ticket was $180 round trip, including an extra checked baggage fee. I stayed in a guest house near Causeway Bay for $65. My Shenzhen hotel near Futian train station was $60. [I’ve blogged about visiting Hong Kong before, but briefly, you can walk from Shenzhen’s Futian checkpoint to the Lok Ma Chau checkpoint in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, passing through two immigration and customs control points. That takes about an ...

Happy Year of the Dog!

Happy Year of the Dog!
GUANGZHOU — It is now the first day of the Year of Dog, a suitable time to update everyone on my winter travels. I have just returned to China from Vietnam, where I stayed a little more than a week each in Hanoi and Da Nang. Now, I’m the middle of another week hopping from one place to another to see old friends before I head back to Zhengzhou. Here’s the itinerary, keyed to the map above. 1. Zhengzhou, Henan, China, where I currently work 2. Hong Kong (with a brief stay in Shenzhen) 3. Hanoi, Vietnam 4. Da Nang 5. Hanoi again 6. Hong Kong again 7. Guangzhou, Guangdong 8. Kunming, Yunnan (to reunite with a friend from Jishou U) 9. Changde, Hunan (for a former student’s wedding party) 10. Jishou (because I miss it) and then probably back to Zhengzhou via Changsha, unless I decide to squeeze in another place first. As I mentioned last time, this holiday trip turned into a working vacation when a former colleague asked me to proofread and edit an English translation of a book by a Chinese writer — for pay. Once I finished that, they offered another job, also for pay. ...
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