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More on the ESL Classroom

Updated on March 13, 2010

Challenges in the China English teaching system.

Bad English.

One of the things that irritates me (and there are several) is the poor English standards. I know when I was here last I had a long and fruitful discussion with a Chinese English teacher, as my students kept on pronouncing the word "clothes" as "clothzez". I pointed out that there was only one "s" in clothes, but she claimed that this was the accepted pronunciation in the university where she studied English. I assured her that it didn't matter if it was British English or American English - no one ever pronounced the word as she had been taught. She was most surprised and was going to endeavour to check my information and also inform her colleagues if she could confirm it.

As it happens I have not heard the incorrect pronunciation since I have been her this time.

One of the strange things that is common at this university and college is that there are strange English quotes on the walls. And many of them are in poor English. I will endeavour to get some photos. But it is a joke to us. If the Chinese educators really want to make a differnce surely they could ask some native English speakers (they have many on staff!)

The text books.

Now many of them purport to be written by various English academies in the UK or US. I suspect that the originals were - but as plagiarism has been rife here, it makes sense to assume that some enthusiastic Chinese person/persons, have rewritten the books, and sold them to the educational institutions as the real thing. Hence the occasional bizarre and incorrect English.

As ESL teachers we find ourselves in a difficult position. Do we criticise the books in front of the students? Do we correct the books? What explanation do we give to the students? Often we come across the mistake as we read the material or as the student reads it.

And some content of the text books is conversational English, and if it is material frm the US, it is likely to have some strange words. "I dunno" "I wanna" etc.

Now we can accept that this languge is being used by young people, but should we be teaching this as good English? No, I don't believe so. So we have to explain that it is slang, and that if our students want to write good English business material, those words should not be used.


In our school they are very frugal re photocopying material.  We have a situation in one class where we do not have the material.  The students do not have the text book.  So we have to find an alternative. Here they tend to be so tight with their budget, that they expect US, the teachers, to fund the copying.  On occasions we have done so, but when you have 300+ students, and they each need a sheet or two, the cost soon adds up.

Why should be pay anyway, when it is not our fault that the material has not arrived? Grrrr.  But in China it is often hard to make the college see our side of the argument.


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    • Aussieteacher profile image

      Di 7 years ago from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

      Yes, World-Traveler - the corruption within the industry is fairly rife. It is not about quality - it is clearly about "profit at all costs". Actually South Korea is doing a bit better these days as there is a strong teacher movement which liaises with the government, however I am still in touch with two organisations who clearly are cheating the system. Maybe three if you count the one I went to SK with, but I am no longer in touch with them. I have no doubt that UK, US, Australian and other companies are there just for the money and are part of the corruption. South Korea and China do not do well in the English language skills - very low on the scale of English language learners. Thanks for your comment.

    • World-Traveler profile image

      World-Traveler 7 years ago from USA

      Your comment brought back memories of when I was teaching English in Ulsan, South Korea. You mentioned photocopying problems.

      Native speaking English teachers were required at the institute where I worked to copy and rewrite entire ESL EFL textbooks written by USA native speaking professional university professors from the United States and the UK.

      After the teachers finished rewriting the textbooks, the Director of the Institute took the re-write to a copy shop where the rewritten text was photocopied in mass.

      If the teachers refused, they would not be given their E-2 Work Visas and reported to Korean Immigration authorities by the language Institute director. This was a type of black mail.

      We teachers were invited to come to Korea to teach English at the Institute, told to enter on a tourist visa, and that the Director of the language Institute would provide us with a letter to take to Fokukua, Japan to be given to the Korean Embassy enabling us to get our E-2 Work Visas to work legally in Korea. Those teachers that refused to rewrite the textbooks never got their work visas and were deported.

      The Director of the English language institute had cardboard boxes of illegally produced English language textbooks stacked from floor to ceiling for later sale to Korean students who had signed contracts to learn English. The Director of the language institute then put the name of his language Institute on the cover of the book advertising that this was this particular institute's method of learning English, developed themselves. A fraud. I could not believe my eyes.

      Reporting these people to the police was futile. Some English language institutes were chains from which money from criminal gangs or mafia was channeled into so-called ligitimate businesses, the English language institutes. With powerful people and money behind the Directors' of these institutes, police silence was bought. Teachers who filed complaints were not given their letters of acceptance of employment to take to Japan to get their E-2 work visas, and, they were deported.

      The cost of the illegally produced books was exorbitant. This is one, amongst several, of the illegal methods some English language institutes use to cut corners and save money.

      The competition of English language Institutes in South Korea for survival is fierce. The Institutes that use legal business practices frequently cannot compete and go out of business.