Awesome share, @stephanrich – Behold, the power of the Internet | I Followed My Stolen iPhone Across The World, Became A Celebrity In China, And Found A Friend For Life http://ow.ly/LZN5Y
One of the biggest challenges faced by an ESL teacher in China is trying to re-invent yourself to your students. As you spend more time with the same students, your methods will have a shorter lifespan. You want your students to learn, but no one learns well if they aren’t engaged with the lesson materials and activities.
Over the course of my four years teaching in China, I’ve used numerous activities, warmers and games. Some are instant hits, others don’t quite fit the energy or English level of the students. It’s unrealistic to think every activity will be a “home run”, so it’s important to accept that some activities will fail. Good teachers learn from those experiences as well. A successful TEFL activity takes preparation, planning, and sometimes a little luck.
Running an activity can be divided into Five Steps. Each step has a specific purpose, and following this guideline will ensure your activities are effective and run efficiently.
- Lead in
Before starting an activity, it’s a good idea to get the students focused on what they’ll be doing. For example, if I’m teaching new vocabulary and the words are mostly verbs, I might start by having the students brainstorm all the verbs they already know. Since kinesthetic learning is so important for children, I’ll also tell them to act out the words as they say them. This way I’m getting the students engaged, and previewing what’s next. Now they’re already thinking about verbs, so I’ve given them context when I present the new vocabulary.
- Set Up
Naturally, the students will not be able to do the activity without clear instructions, so demonstrate the activity first. If the activity is simple, you can give instructions for the whole thing at once. If it’s long or complex, do it in stages and have the students follow you. Never hand out papers, tools or toys before you’re finished explaining. Students will be more interested in what you just gave them, rather than listening to your instructions. To be sure your students understand what you want them to do, ask concept check questions, or ask a student to explain the activity back to you.
Once all your students understand what you want them to do, the activity should be able to run itself. The teacher must monitor, make sure students use the target language, and make corrections as necessary (try not to interrupt unless you have to!). Some corrections can be made after the activity, because every time you stop the students it disrupts the flow of the activity.
Closing an activity can be difficult. Try to sense when the students are ready to stop. It is better to stop an activity before the students get tired or bored, but make sure you give them enough time to be productive. Time warnings are a good way to inform the students the activity is about to end without suddenly stopping. Sometimes you stop when one team has finished, or when the majority of the students are done. You can’t always wait for everyone to finish your activities. Try and set a time-limit or a clear goal for when the activity will end, and make sure the students understand when the activity is finished.
When your activity has finished, it’s a good idea to ask the students what they learned. You can also correct some of the errors you observed while the students were doing their activity. And don’t forget to praise your students for doing a good job!
Remember, regardless of the age or level of your students, they will feed off your energy. If you’re presenting an activity with no enthusiasm, your students won’t get excited, either. Make your activity fun and interesting, and use big gestures when you’re demonstrating what to do; even if you look or feel foolish! Your students want to have fun, and sometimes you need to show them they’re allowed to have fun while learning!
By: Mikkel Larsen
China’s biggest holiday of the year is 春节 (“chun jie” – Spring Festival), or Chinese New Year as it’s referred to in the West. Spring Festival is like Christmas and New Year’s Eve combined into a one week super-holiday. Nearly everyone returns home to see their family during Spring Festival, so it’s the annual cause of the largest human migration on Earth; every year China sets a new record for the most people traveling at the same time. Last year, around 260 million people traveled to various parts of the country within just a matter of days.
Because Chinese holidays are set according to the lunar calendar, the Chinese New Year doesn’t usually start until late January or early February – this year, Spring Festival started on February 18th. Unlike Christmas and New Year in the Western world, which are traditionally only celebrated for one day each, Spring Festival is celebrated from the last day of the last month, for fifteen days until the Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day of the first month. Throughout these fifteen days, people have dinners at home with loved ones, play traditional Chinese games like Mahjong, and exchange gifts such as 红包 (“hong bao” – red envelopes full of money). It is also tradition to wear new clothes at the start of the New Year, so the few days before the Spring Festival begins it’s common for everyone to go shopping for new (usually red) clothes.
The staple food during Chinese Spring Festival is dumplings. The 馅儿 (“xian’er” – stuffing, or flavor) varies by region. In the north for example, Spring Festival dumplings are often filled with pork, shrimp, and leeks. Another salient feature of Spring Festival is the hanging of red lanterns along the road, and 春联 (“Chun lian” – Spring Festival couplets) on doorways and windows. These are usually adorned with Chinese characters for happiness, health and fortune. It is believed that hanging these symbols in your house will bring good luck in the New Year.
Perhaps the most important (and loudest) part of Spring Festival is playing with firecrackers. Unlike in the west where we shoot fireworks into the sky for the New Year, Chinese firecrackers are smaller in size, but larger in number. Instead of shooting off a single rocket, the Chinese will light firecrackers that are several meters long with several thousand smaller bangs. The shooting of fireworks and firecrackers can be heard year round in China (especially during weddings or when a new business opens), but Spring Festival is when they are most prevalent. At midnight of the New Year, you will hear hundreds of thousands of firecrackers being set off simultaneously, and the festivities last deep into the night. The purpose is to scare away evil spirits with the loud noise, and as a blessing to mark a new beginning.
Although celebrations are similar across China, some Spring Festival traditions are slightly different from place to place. Big, modern cities like Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing – though in different parts of the country – celebrate Spring Festival in a very similar fashion. But each province has their own way of doing things. This is especially true as you venture further into the countryside to the small villages; there are ways of celebrating that are unique to their specific location.
Being in China during Spring Festival is indeed a remarkable and memorable experience. Aspects of it remind me of Christmas in my home country of Denmark; it’s not necessarily just about gifts and food, but a chance to spend time with family and enjoy the spirit of the season. Enjoying this type of festive season while living abroad is very special, and is a great reminder of why I have chosen China as a place to live and work.
By: Mikkel Larsen
You’ve accepted a job offer, picked up your visa and booked your flight to China – now it’s time to decide what to bring. Narrowing down your list will be essential – after all, how many pairs of chunky heels (women) and popped collars (gents) does one really need to survive day-to-day life in China?
Most airlines allow for one to two bags, (23kg/50lb each) plus a carry-on and a personal item, so your packing strategy is critical. If you’ve got a friend taking you to the airport, forget about the luggage restrictions and pay the fee for an extra bag (or two depending on how many you can check for free). A little extra money upfront might save you some heartbreak in the long-run. Plus, most schools will send a driver and someone from the school to fetch you at the airport so you won’t have to worry about lugging three or four suitcases around your new city.
These items are important not because you can’t find them, but because it’s hard to find the brands you like OR the price is two or three times higher than in your home country. It’s good to stock up on at least six months worth of each – you can ask your family to send more about three months later (they can send a care package by slow mail and it likely won’t get opened or held up by customs).
- Hair gel/paste
- Hair clippers (a great way to save money on haircuts, guys!)
- Dental floss
- Face lotion
- Multi-vitamins (very expensive in China)
- Protein powder: This is a must if you’re really into fitness – I buy six (6) two-pound containers every time I go home and pack it in a standard unmarked brown cardboard box, completely wrapped in packing tape. They never check the box at the airport.
- Prescription medicine (can be packed safely in your checked bag)
- Coffee grounds (you’ll thank me later)
- A good, sturdy bike lock or chain
- Power adapter
- A money belt (an absolute MUST when traveling in Asia)
- Sleeping mask & earplugs
- A good DSLR camera for taking memorable photos!
- A laptop (electronics are surprisingly much cheaper in western countries)
Some schools have a uniform, but most just require ‘smart casual‘ attire. That said, it’s still useful to pack some formal attire – it’s not unusual to be invited to attend events such as weddings, banquets etc. And since it’s likely you’ll be adventuring a bit while you’re in Asia, it’s also a good idea to pack hiking clothes and some basic gear.
The items below are in addition to normal, everyday clothes you’ll automatically bring with you – for example, underwear isn’t listed, but you ought to bring some anyway! You’ll also note I’ve suggested a lot of shoes. Why? Because it can be very hard for westerners to find shoes here. Anything above a size 11 (men) and size 9 (women) can be difficult to find!
- Smart casual basics for work (and shoes)
- One suit (men) or formal dress (women) – with the appropriate shoes/accessories
- Comfortable sneakers (wear on the plane)
- Sandals (if you normally like to wear them in the summer)
- Hiking shoes/boots
- A good day pack (carry on the plane)
- Seasonal outdoor clothing (if you like hiking)
Note: If you come during spring, summer or fall and don’t want to bring a heavy coat with you, don’t! You can pick up a good one for about $50 after you arrive!
- Cancel your mobile service
- Make copies of your passport (every page) social security card, birth certificate (give a set to a loved one in your home country and keep a set for yourself)
- Rent a mailbox or set up mail forwarding to your parent’s or sibling’s home
- Call your bank and credit card companies and tell them you’re moving overseas – they can ‘unlock’ your account so it’s not frozen for suspicious looking activity.
Packing can be a nightmare if you don’t know what to bring – with the above items in tow, you can feel confident you’ve got the basics (and then some) for your first year teaching abroad!
I’d love to hear if you have any other suggestions!
The city of Shijiazhuang is the Provincial capital of Hebei Province and located just 170 miles from Beijing (about two hours by train). Just southwest of the capital city, the population of Shijiazhuang has swelled to just about 10 million people.
Shijiazhuang is in the heart of northern China and just a short distance from Peking, Xi’an and Qingdao. The city center is rapidly growing while the surrounding area offers mountains, Buddhist temples and fabulous scenery. The ancient walled city of Pingyao and the sacred Mount Tai are a short and cheap train journey away. Mount Cangyan is famous for its appearance in the movie “Hidden Tiger Leaping Dragon”.
The more frugal minded should be pleased to know the cost of living in Shijiazhuang is incredibly low compared with other cities in China. Buying fresh produce from street markets is very inexpensive and there are restaurants all over the city which are very reasonably priced.
Party-goers will find Shijiazhuang has several bars and pubs and dance clubs in the city including many 24-hour restaurants. In the summer the main attractions are the street restaurants – people set up barbecue pits along the streets and you can sit and eat and drink late into the evening or relax at one of the several beer gardens throughout the city. Several shopping malls have opened in Shijiazhuang which have modern supermarkets and other western staples such as Wal-Mart, H&M, Starbucks and others.
Shijiazhuang is a modern and vibrant city offering foreigners the real Chinese experience – the city only has but a few “外国人” (or waiguoren, which means literally, “outside country people”). Most of the people here speak Mandarin Chinese, so living in Shijiazhuang provides foreigners with an excellent opportunity to be immersed in the language.
Because of its eclectic mix of modern and classic Chinese features, many expats feel Shijiazhuang is northern China’s best kept secret.
Visit the ESL Suite homepage for ESL teaching jobs in China and in Shijiazhuang city!
Have you ever considered working abroad but couldn’t pull the trigger on making it happen? If you answered, “Yes” you’re not alone. A lot of people are happy to kick the idea around but can’t muster the will or resources to make it happen. Maybe you’re also one of those people, but don’t fret; fear of the unknown is common. After all, there are many important decisions to make and questions to ask yourself before making such a life altering move.
“Where’s the best place to go?”
“Will I be able to adjust to the culture?”
“What if I can’t speak the language?”
“Who’s going to take care of my hamster?”
These are common questions (yes, even the last one!) – in fact, maybe you’ve asked yourself one or more of them when you were considering a year overseas.
Here are 7 signs you’ve moved past “thinking about it” and are ready to make the leap!
You’re looking for a career boost: One of the biggest advantages of working overseas is that it can offer a fast path to a senior-level position. People mired in dead-end jobs in their home country often find foreign employers are keen to put them into positions with greater responsibility. This can give you experience and training which will help you secure a better job when you decide to move back home.
You’re ready for a new challenge: There’s no better way to grow as a person than to do something that makes you uncomfortable. It’s nearly impossible to experience personal growth without getting outside of your comfort zone and suffering through the trials of learning something new. People who are able to take on and overcome personal and professional challenges are better at coping with new problems. This is why companies are so eager to hire people with international experience – people who have lived overseas for long stretches of time are usually able to make adjustments to difficult situations faster and are more open to taking challenging tasks. This is also why the happiest people have the hardest jobs.
You want to learn a new language: Less than 20% of Americans can speak a second language – this pales in comparison with Europe (53%), and most Asian countries require students to study English as a second language. This means Americans (British, Australians and Kiwis, too) are at a major disadvantage in a world that is becoming increasingly flat. Sure, English is the world’s lingua franca, but there’s no doubt that being able to communicate with people from other countries in their native language will give you an inside edge in business and social settings. Not to mention, employers often perceive people who can speak a second language as smarter – and they’re right. Learning a second language is said to improve your memory, fight off Alzheimer’s and help you with multi-tasking.
You want to learn a new skill or craft: One of the best parts of living overseas is the opportunity to learn a unique skill directly from the source. In China for instance, skills such as calligraphy, ink painting, gongfu (Chinese kung fu) and archery are disciplines that were passed from one generation to the next. Teachers of these ancient crafts are the masters in their field – it’s a rare opportunity to study from someone with that much experience and knowledge. Some people even take cooking lessons and return to their home country knowing how to roll homemade Chinese dumplings or other local delicacies!
You’ve never been outside of your home country: Many people site “Not traveling enough” as their biggest regret in life. Exploring a different country, observing the customs of the locals, trying new food, smelling new smells – these are all important experiences. Plus, people who travel more tend to have a more worldly view of current events and are more open to the opinions and views of others. For instance, the Chinese admire Americans because of our creativity and ability to innovate – people in the West admire the Chinese for their industriousness. The two countries have very different work cultures but could benefit from learning from one another.
You came out of the Great Recession underemployed: This was a common phenomenon after the chaos that followed the 2008 financial crisis. Many people came out of the ordeal with depleted savings and with a job that paid much less than the one they had before. Moving overseas is a great way to “reset” – the cost of living is much lower in Asia and finding a high-paying job is easier. While the economy in the west stagnated, China continued its blistering growth. It’s slowed a bit in recent years, but economists say 5-8% annual growth will be the norm. This means there’s still a lot of opportunity. Even if companies in the west aren’t adding to their payrolls, there’s good news: China is always hiring!
You have a bucket list: It seems everyone has one now – and if watching the sunset on the Great Wall isn’t on yours, it ought to be! China is home to 45 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From The Great Wall, and Forbidden City in Beijing to Jiuzhaigou Valley in Sichuan Province – there’s a lot to see. It would probably take a lifetime to see them all, but a year or two should be enough to put a few more “ticks” on your Bucket List!
This list is probably not exhaustive – but its a good start. If you found yourself saying “Yes” to one or more of these, it might be time to start packing a bag and searching for cheap flights to Beijing!
You’ll probably want to work while you’re living in China – take a look at the ESL Suite job board for the best ESL teaching jobs in China!
- What could studying modern foreign languages do for you? (tutorhub.com)
- Jiuzhaigou Valley, China (andrewyoungphotography.co)
- Top 10 reasons how a second language may be more important than your passport… (talkinfrench.com)
When directly translating Chinese to English, it’s easy to find laughable mistakes; unfortunately technology has also proven unreliable. There are also terribly literal translations such as “冰球 ” (“ice ball”, otherwise known as “hockey”) or “枫树糖浆” (“maple tree sweet sauce”…you guessed it…”syrup”).
Occasionally however, I come across a word that strikes me as slightly romantic – literally translated, “长春” (Changchun) means “Long Spring”. Somehow the name evokes images of snow-capped mountains and cherry blossoms. Attractions like Changbai Mountain and Heavenly Lake, Jingyuetan National Forest and Nanhu Park all give credibility to Changchun’s reputation as one of the greenest and most livable cities in China.
The provincial capital of Jilin province, Changchun is in the beautiful northeast of China – near Russia, Mongolia and Korea. People often say that China, as seen on a map looks like a chicken (it really does!). If China really is a giant rooster, Changchun is the “eye”.
After overcoming occupations by the Mongolians and Japan, Changchun has finally flourished into a modern city with a robust economy which includes automobile manufacturing and much of China’s film industry. Unlike many of China’s coastal cities, Changchun has a short history and is still very much a work in progress – because of the city’s reputation as the “City in the Forest”, there is a conscious effort to develop in a sustainable fashion. Green spaces are preserved and the air is among the cleanest in China.
In the past few years, the city has seen several upscale Western restaurants open – and although the nightlife has a long way to go before it catches up with Beijing and Shanghai, there are several good places that are friendly to expats. Changchun is a great place to live for outdoorsy types – especially in winter. Outside the city is skiing, snowboarding and you can find places for ice-skating inside the city.
The food in Changchun is well-known throughout China – ginseng is a specialty here and it is found in several classic dishes. Because of its proximity to the Korean Peninsula, there’s also a notably Korean flair to the food – lots of kimchi and chili sauce for lovers of spicy food – not to mention plenty of tasty seafood dishes.
As nice as it is to live in Changchun, it’s also an easy place to get away from. Beijing, Dalian, Mongolia and Shenyang are all reachable by train. In winter, you can hop on a train to Harbin to see the unbelievable Harbin Ice Festival. I’d show you photos myself but my Canon ‘Elf’ froze while I was there (nearly -40 degrees C)!
With its unique blend of Chinese and Korean culture, well-protected green spaces and rugged mountain surroundings, Changchun is a Chinese city unlike any other.
- City Profile: Tianjin, China (eslsuite.wordpress.com)
- City Profile: Beijing (eslsuite.wordpress.com)
- 3-D Museum Opens in Tianjin, Tomfoolery Ensues (eslsuite.wordpress.com)
- Tianjin likely to report highest GDP growth for 2013 (wantchinatimes.com)
The Chinese have always had a flair for formidable displays of power and wealth, and nowhere in China is that more clear than Beijing. From the ostentatious portrait of Mao Zedong at the front gate of Tian’anmen Square to the sprawling Temple of Heaven Park – the capital city of the world’s most populous country is a sight to behold.
Sometimes called Peking, China‘s second largest city (by population after Shanghai) has long been the political, cultural and educational capital of the Middle Kingdom. Many of China’s most famous landmarks can be found in or around the city, including ancient wonders such as the Great Wall of China, the Ming Tombs and the Summer Palace. There are five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in or around Beijing city.
Modern cultural and commercial landmarks are no different – everyone remembers the lavish opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics along with its two hallmark venues, the Water Cube and Bird’s Nest. The Beijing Capital Airport is among the busiest in the world and the subway line has nearly 500 km of track. Downtown notable landmarks include the CCTV building in the CBD (Central Business District) and the National Center for Performing Arts (also known as the ‘The Giant Egg’) which is just next to the Great Hall of the People.
Beijing is also known as the intellectual capital of China – some of China’s top universities, including Tsinghua University and Peking University are located in the city. The enormous Forbidden City and Palace Museum is the highlight of Beijing’s many cultural attractions which also include the Museum of Natural History, the Aviation Museum, Military Museum, and the Ancient Observatory. The 798 Art District is home to the city’s flourishing modern art scene and of course the Beijing Zoo which keeps nearly 500 different animal species.
Home to the official national dialect (Mandarin or putonghua), savory Peking duck and Beijing Opera, not to mention world-class shopping and nightlife, Beijing is a Chinese city like no other. A week or a month isn’t nearly enough time to soak in all the different sites, sounds and flavors of this vibrant metropolis.
To look at teaching positions in Beijing or nearby Tianjin, visit the ESL Suite website for all the latest teaching jobs in China.
- Beijing: In a Nutshell (backpackerlee.wordpress.com)
- Beijing – China (sweetandwildblog.wordpress.com)
Regarded as one of the two Paradises on Earth, Hangzhou is widely considered one of the best places to live in China. There’s an expression in Chinese: “上有天堂 下有苏杭” which means, “Above, there is heaven; below there is Hangzhou….”.
The capital of Zhejiang province, Hangzhou is just two hours by bus from Shanghai. With a written history of over 2300 years, Hangzhou is among the Seven Ancient Capitals of China and is known for its natural beauty and green spaces.
The UNESCO website describes West Lake as, “….comprising the West Lake and the hills surrounding its three sides, has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century. It comprises numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees, as well as causeways and artificial islands.”
A food-lovers delight, Hangzhou cuisine reflects the Zhejiang preparation style. Notable dishes include “Dongpo pork” (braised pork), clay-pot chicken colorfully named “Beggar’s Chicken” – plus a wide choice of fresh fish dishes.
Being a modern city of nearly 9 million, getting around, shopping and finding exciting nightlife are easy. Qing He Fang Street is the famous “Ancient Culture Street” and reflects characteristics of the Southern Song Dynasty.
Hangzhou is a transport hub with an international airport and connects with most major cities on the coast by train (both slow trains and high-speed rail). Within the city, taxis and buses are cheap and convenient, plus the newly opened Hangzhou Metro is easing some of the burden on the local transit system.
Not only is Hangzhou a wonderful travel destination, it’s also one of the best cities for foreigners living in China. Come see for yourself what all the fuss is about – working in “Paradise” might be a nice way to spend a gap-year!
- And The Winner Is…. (lindalivinginchina.wordpress.com)
- A Weekend and an “English Corner” in Hangzhou (curtisbecadventures.wordpress.com)
- Longjing: An Imperial Tea from Heaven on Earth (formaggiokitchen.com)