Nine years before the mast

And precious little to show for it.

Although we aren’t formally charged with teaching our pupils grammar, the nature of the tests that we give them means that we have to deal with whatever grammatical structure the textbook covers in each theme. It’s stuff that they should already know, but their grasp of grammar, in spite of their allegedly extensive knowledge, is often weak.

Today we were doing the perfect continuous (have been Ving). One of the questions for speaking practice was “How long have you been learning English?” After a few moments of counting on her fingers, one girl said she’d been learning English for nine years. Her score on the occasion of the last exam was equivalent to IELTS 3 (actually just short of 3.5). IELTS 8 or 9 is native speaker level. Although I might not expect someone to be as proficient as a native speaker of English after nine years (interspersed with other subjects, of course), I might expect such a person’s English to be better than IELTS 3.5.

[20.08.13. At the end of last term, Fred Voelkel and I interviewed some prospective students. I asked one how long he’d been learning English and got the same answer. Once again I thought Nine years and not much to show for it.]

All right, the joke’s over.

I went to the DVD shop opposite the gates of the university on Monday evening only to find that, Chinese films aside, it was very, very bare. I went again this evening, hoping that things might be back to normal. Wrong.

How many of them are there?

We went to the Macao/Portuguese restaurant last night to celebrate Glen’s birthday. But having hailed a taxi on Cang Qian Lu, we wondered where on earth we were going. I thought that he was taking a circuitous route because the route the driver had decided to take was blocked at one point. (I watched a car with military reg plates squeeze through a barrier only to note that the off ramp from the roundabout was completely blocked beyond that.) It turned out that Barby, who’d spoken to the taxi driver on the phone, had sent him to another branch of the same restaurant, this one being on the corner of 华林路 (Huálín Lù) and 鼓屏路 (Gǔpíng Lù), while the one we’ve been to twice before is on 八一七北路 (Bāyīqī Běilù), which is what Guping Lu becomes south of 天桥 (Tiān Qiáo).

If that’s not enough, there are three other branches, all with different names, on 湖东路 (Hú Dōng Lù), two of which are almost opposite each other.

Anyway, the food was very nice, and I noted as we left that there was a large half-node of amethyst, probably about 30cm tall and about 15+ cm wide at the base sitting on the counter. I’ve seen the price of these things somewhere in Fuzhou, and even the small ones are prohibitively expensive.


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