Tutoring English in China (家教)
Class Start (上课)
China, Guangzhou, Taojin (淘金) | Private Tutoring (家教)
Today I came to see my home schooling student in Taojin. He is eleven years old.
The class was scheduled for 90 minutes.
In terms of the class content, we didn’t go into any structured learning.
The majority of the time was just free talked.
Discuss Our Days (对话)
We came in, sat down in the study room, and almost immediately started talking about the day.
I said, “It is a hot day.” Then we started talking a bit about the weather.
I asked, “What did you do today?”
We began to talk about a lot of different subjects. I just wanted to listen to what he would talk about.
Using Word Replacement Techniques (技法)
Pretty much for the whole hour and thirty minutes, he would talk, I would listen and also direct the conversation.
In our class, when he would say something in Chinese to supplement his English words, I would write that down.
When he said something in Chinese in the middle of his English sentences straight away I would translate it to English, and then get him to learn it.
Discuss Milk Prices (对话)
One of the conversations we had was about the price of milk in Australia compared to China. He was saying, “I don’t believe that the milk prices in Australia are so cheap. One Australian dollar for one liter of milk.”
I asked, “Yeah, how much is it in China?”
He calculated it costs 18 RMB, “Three Australian dollars.”
I asked, “Why do you think it is so expensive?”
Then he went into a conversation about sheep, and all these different kinds of things to do with animals on farms, and the price of milk.
I told him, “That is true. In Australia we have farms in areas where people live. The area where I live is already close to farmland. So, it doesn’t take much effort to get the milk from the farms to the shelves. It is so close. In China I guess it has to travel great distances, or you don’t have too much land.”
He said, “Yes. The land (地) is too expensive.” He said they have to import their milk, and that is why it costs more.
Discuss WeChat Accounts (对话)
Then we moved from that to talk about WeChat accounts.
I asked him to tell me a story about mobile phones. He ended up telling me a story about a SIM card, how his dad had to purchase a SIM card every 6 months because he is too young to own a phone.
He said, “In China, we are only allowed to have one WeChat account per 身份证.”
I said, “That is not right. My friend can have five official accounts per 身份证.”
I then told him, “You know, as a foreigner, I can’t get any of those, so I have to ask my Chinese friends. If I needed a WeChat account, I would have to ask my Chinese friends to get one.”
He said, “Every six months my dad has to get me a new SIM card.” I found that really interesting.
Then I showed him my WeChat. We went through all my friends, because he started talking about all the people I have made friends with while I was in China.
I scrolled down to 850 people.
He exclaimed, “Wow, that is so many,” compared to the 22 friends he has.
He then said, “My mom has about one thousand two hundred people on her WeChat. But, do you talk to those people? What happens if they do not talk to you for a long time? Don’t you just delete them?”
I said, “Normally I don’t. I just leave them there. Some time down the track we will be able to talk to each other. You never know.”
Using Cues In Conversation (技法)
I kept using cues in the conversation to turn it to something else.
So, we had gone from WeChat accounts and probably used one of the words to use an example of “use”. He was using “use” a lot but was instead using the Chinese word “使用”.
I told him, “I use this cup to drink a coffee from Starbucks.”
Naturally, we turned to Starbucks and had a conversation about that.
He asked me, “How do you say Starbucks in Chinese?”
I said, “星巴克.”
Discuss “Final”, “Last” and “First” In School Hours (对话)
Then we had a long conversation about his school. We started talking about people in Australia, and the difference between schooling in Australia and China.
I said, “You know, when I go to school, I only do eight hours of school when I am in the same year as you. We would start at 7 am and study to 3 pm.”
He exclaimed, “Wow, that is almost the same as me, seven hours.” I asked, “So, why do you think all these kids in middle school （高中学）finish class at 7 pm?”
He said, “Because they have to choose electives for their classes. Normally they have to study until much later.”
So, we were having this conversation about school and the final year. We therefore touched on differences in words between “final” “last” and “first”.
Discuss The Word “Sneer” (对话)
He continued to recount stories about his teacher.
He told me one of his teachers has a temper, and he said his teacher likes to sneer (嘲讽) at things.
I asked him, “What does嘲讽mean? Give me an example.”
He said, “There is a book. He does not like the book, so he yells at the book. He is not angry at the book. He just yells at it because it is not good enough.”
Then we looked up the word, and I said, “Oh! Sneer? So, your teacher is an angry person, he has a temper, and he likes to sneer a lot.”
He confirmed, “Yes, he is not a kind person.”
Discuss The Word “Awkward” (对话)
Then we started talking about the word “awkward” because he said, “My teacher makes me feel 尴尬.”
I said, “I have noticed you use this word 尴尬’ a lot but you don’t use the English example.”
Then we started to come up with a lot of examples for ‘尴尬’.
I asked, “What has made you feel ‘尴尬’ before. Tell me about it.”
Discuss Busy People (对话)
Then at one point we started talking about getting busier when he turns 18 years old.
I said, “Now you are only eleven years old, you are not that busy. But after you turn eighteen and get a job, you are going to be super busy man.”
I gave him an example of today, how I had a friend who only lives 100 meters away from me in Chebei.
I said, “We only live one hundred meters away, and asked, ‘do you want to meet up?’ That person said she is too busy. Then I am thinking in my mind, ‘this person is too busy to walk one hundred meters?'”
Then I looked at him, and said, “That is Chinese people. They are all so busy.”
He said, “Mm, yeah!”
I told him, “You wait until you turn eighteen. Hopefully you don’t get that busy, but that is what normally happens to people in China.”
Discuss Craziness (对话)
We explored awkward feelings. Then he started to talk about crazy people, in that context.
He said, “I know these three 神经病 kids in my class.”
Then he recounted a story of how they were in school, they ran over a field, and had to jump over a fence. This crazy kid who was 5 years old was not listening to the teacher, and he would yell back at the teacher.
He said, “This one kid is神经病. He never listens to what the teacher says. He also yells back. He has a temper at the teacher.”
I said, “Wow, that kid is really cool. At five years old, you are allowed to have a temper.”
Discuss Fights (对话)
Naturally we started talking about all these different fights that happen between people.
I taught him all different words, such as “independence”, “fight” and “initiative” and “detention”. They were all new words that I taught him.
Discuss Accents (对话)
Then we had a conversation about accents.
He said, “When you travel around China, everyone speaks a different accent. You have a Shanghai accent.”
I asked, “Can you speak Cantonese?”
He said, “No, I can’t speak it.” He only knew 1-2 words in Cantonese.
I asked, “How come you didn’t learn it?”
He said, “I can understand Shanghai accent, and I listen to my old grandfather talking in Cantonese, and another man would speak to him in Mandarin, so I picked that language up.”
He told me about all different accents and dialects in China, so I said, “The word for that is ‘dialect’. There are a lot of dialects. But Australia does not have that. Australia has the one dialect. Everybody speaks Australian.”
“…The only difference is that Aboriginal people have their own culture and their own dialect and their own language. So, there will be a big difference between those two languages.”
Review New Words (复习)
Later on I came back to the book and said, “Let’s go through all these words.”
There were 40 words he had said in Chinese. I said, “Let’s go through one by one and see which ones you remember.”
Once I placed special emphasis on words such as “use”, “awkward”, “salt”, “business”, “time”, “straw”, “height”, “initiative”, because he repeated these over and over.
I said, “This can be your homework. You have to use these words to write out sentences for next time we have class.
Discuss Diary Of A Wimpy Kid (对话)
The last bit of conversation that we had was about the Wimpy Kid book because he asked, “What do you do in Australia for work?”
I said, “I do IT, but I am also a writer.”
He said, “I remember you told me you do IT.”
I then pointed to the book inside the bookshelf, and said, “Remember how you showed me the Wimpy Kid book? I want to achieve that.”
He asked, “How many people have read your book so far?”
I estimated highly, “Maybe about five hundred.”
He exclaimed, “Wow, that is good.”
Then I told him, “I expect to be able to sell more than 20,000 of that book. I want to have a book similar to Wimpy Kid where many people have read through the whole book, and then they put it into their shelf and keep it there. That is my objective.” He liked my answers.
Performance Review With Parents (复习)
The time was 9 pm when I finished up in the class in Taojin (淘金).
Then I walked downstairs with the father and the kid. We were walking towards Starbucks, and I was talking with the kid at some stages, and then talking to the dad at other stages.
The parents created this scenario where all three of us can walk together. The kid put a bag on his back. I asked, “Where are you guys going?” He said, “We are going down the street to get food from the supermarket.” We got in the elevator together. When we came downstairs, that is when the father used that time and opportunity together with me and his son to start to talk about his kid’s performance.
He said, “We have been listening to our kid. He has mixed a lot of Chinese words with his English words.”
I said, “That is true, he has done that somewhat, but that is good in terms of being able to teach him new words. I can discover which words he is using wrong.”
I told him, “One of the things I am doing is using the words he says in Chinese, to write them down, and teach him those words in English as a new vocabulary. To me, I think it is beneficial that he does that, so I can pick up on the words more easily.”
“Obviously if he speaks them in Chinese, it is easier to pick up which are the new words, rather than if he speaks in Chinese and can’t get the words out.”
I thought that was beneficial, but the father didn’t see it that way.
Schedule New Lesson (下课)
Eventually I said, “I am going into Starbucks now. Which day do you want me to come back?”
The father replied, “Any day, because my son is available every day.”
The kid looked at me with despair on his face, saying, “But I have a test tomorrow.”
I said to the kid, “Then I will come back in two days, on Monday? Do you want that?”
He answered, “Yeah.”
I said, “Then I will come back in two days on Monday, to do the fourth class.”
From there, I waved the father and son goodbye, and came into Starbucks.
The author of Diary Of A Mad Chaos from 1996 to 2018, The Lost Years book, Wubao In China (猎艳奇缘) book series, and Foreigner (华人) an exploration of race relations in Australia. Fluent in Chinese Mandarin, Macedonian, and English, the author currently resides in China, Guangzhou where he continues to make comparative analysis of the cultural differences between Eastern and Western societies.