I’ve been teaching EFL in China since September, 2002. My adventure began in Tongzhou, which is a satellite town just outside Beijing, where I lived for three years. I spent a year near Changzhou in Jiangsu Province, a year in Fuzhou in Fujian Province, and then two years in Chengdu in Sichuan Province. I’ve been in Wuxi (Jiangsu Province again) since 2009.

My current school started life as an A-level centre, but was accredited as an IB centre in 2012. While I did do some English teaching on both sides of the fence after that, I’ve shifted away from teaching IGCSE English as a Second Language and, at the time of writing, only teach the IB English B course to second- and third-year pupils.

I’ve taught various EFL courses to all three years at high-school level – General English; English for Academic Purposes; IELTS, TOEFL and SAT preparation; and IB English B.

And now a brief note for any non-native speakers wondering how to im­prove their English.

  1. Read widely.
  2. Read contemporary English. (19th century English is dated, and the windy, ponderous style is largely alien to the 21st century.)
  3. Read fiction. (Newspaper and magazine articles rarely stretch the imag­inations of non-native speakers.)
  4. If your vocabulary is weak, read for ideas and worry less about the de­tails.
  5. Insisting on knowing every word impedes your progress. See 4.
  6. Practise paraphrasing.
    1. Can you state the main idea of a paragraph in your own words?
  7. Memorising large chunks of English is a waste of time because you’ll never use them.
  8. Practise regularly to maintain your level of English.

In the main, reading will also help improve your writing as you get a better feel for what constitutes natural, normal English.

2 thoughts on “About”

  1. Hi! I just stumbled upon your blog while reading up on the Tang dynasty tale “Ren the Fox Fairy,” which you discuss several years back in your archives. As a college student studying abroad in Chengdu this summer, do you have any insight – things I should know in advance, things to be sure to see, etc?

    Also, how did you get involved in teaching EFL in China? It’s something I’ve considered doing after graduation myself.


    1. A lot of people seem to end up on my blog because of my entries about Chinese folk tales.

      If you’re heading to Chengdu this summer, I’d recommend bringing a laptop with you (which I would’ve done myself when I first came to China all those years ago if I’d known better; you probably have one anyway). You might also want a VPN so that you can access blogspot, YouTube, and Facebook, and anything else that’s been blocked, although you need to make sure the VPN hasn’t been blocked as well. Skype is all right at the moment.

      Chengdu in summer isn’t as hot as everyone says, but it is humid and can be wet. If you’re going to be a cyclist (Chengdu is utterly flat and thus ideal for cycling), you can buy a rain hood locally.

      On practical matters, you might want to get a poison gas machine (no, I don’t know what they’re actually called) to kill mosquitoes. It might be handy to bring an adaptor for your plugs, but you could buy a universal board here. China takes vertical and angle pin plugs in general, but the right sort of plugboard will take just about anything.

      Foreign foodstuffs can be obtained from places like Carrefour, Ito Yokado, Metro (but you need a card to get in), and Sabrina’s (科华北路), but don’t expect a wide range.

      Expect frustrations, the absence of logic and common sense, and a certain amount of uncivilised behaviour. (Read up about Hall’s Classification of Cultures, which will give you some insight into the reasons why.) Don’t think that you can change how things get done here even if it seems eminently sensible. It ain’t gonna happen.

      There’s a lot to see in Chengdu: Wuhou Temple, Du Fu’s Cottage, Wenshu Temple, Dujiangyan, pandas (if you’re so inclined). There’s the new museum next to Du Fu’s Cottage and the university museum (which is on the river), as well as Jinsha, which is the source of the symbol you’ll see on taxis in Chengdu. (That reminds me: taxis require a great deal of patience because you’ll see plenty, but very few will be free.) Out past the university museum is Wangjiang Park, which was the home of the Tang Dynasty poet, Xue Tao.

      I was not planning to become an EFL teacher, let alone one in China for so long. I got the job probably because the people who employed me were desperate. These days I believe that you’re meant to be a graduate and have some experience, but may not need an TEFL/TESOL certificate. You might find something with one of the innumerable school-based programmes or something at a privately run language school, but do your homework first. I’ve been lucky with my employers (EMW and dipont), but others may live on the fringe. Rates of pay can vary, although it may not matter if this is all about the experience.

      I hope the information is useful for you. I’ll probably think of something else in about two minutes from now.

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