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China in the Ozarks: Part Four: Teaching and Learning English in China and in the Ozarks

As part of our on going series Global Citizenship, KSMU is bringing you a week of in-depth reports about Chinese influences in the Ozarks.

Chinese members of the community commonly struggle to hold a conversation in English with a native speaker. That's why many students learn English as a second language, or learn how to teach English to non-native speakers. But there are some differences between how these students learn and teach English in America compared to China. KSMU's Emily Nash spoke with a student and a visiting professor from China about Teaching English as a second language.

Jia Hou is from China, and loves reading English novels.

In fact, her undergraduate degree from a Chinese university was in English Literature.

"I am really interested in language itself so, I like reading novels."

Nash: What is your favorite?

"Jane Austin. Yeah, she is my favorite author."

She is now in graduate school at Missouri State University in Springfield studying Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, or TESOL.

She describes the differences in learning English in China, and learning it here.

"Actually in China we kind of remember a lot of things, you know we need to recite you know just like basic things. We just remember a lot, maybe not put into practice. But here, it's more like you know learn for purpose. You know, you can use it in your real life."

But Jia wasn't used to having classroom discussions.

"You know Chinese students tend to be more patient, like more silent in class. They just like to listen and to keep everything in them themselves. They don't want to talk them out you know."CUT d "And also here we discuss a lot in class so we can know each other's opinions so we can broaden our minds."

She's made some adjustments to get used to this style of learning.

"I kind of persuade myself to change, you know I have to adapt myself to this new situation."

Linda Guo is a visiting professor at Missouri State university with Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

She has taught TESOL in China for several years and is visiting Missouri State to learn some new teaching skills.

She describes what it's like teaching English in China.

"Actually teaching English as a Second Language in my country is maybe more difficult there because they are studying English kind of as a foreign language rather instead of a second language because they, know almost nothing about the culture, the history of America, so in my teaching I should teach them not only the language but also the culture here and the history."

She says, in China, professors give lectures and writing assignments, but seldom hold classroom discussions or give group work.

This means the students learn what she calls a 'mute English'.

"Maybe they can read much, they can read it well, they can write it well, but, they cannot communicate in English. So that is why we call them to kind of be a mute English."

"I know how they are improving on their teaching method, trying to make it kind of a student centered and also trying to be an interaction and communicative teaching, but you know it is so hard because there is so many students in one classroom, it is very difficult."

Guo says in China her classroom has over 50 students in it.

Here, that number is cut in half.

The small classroom makes it easier to divide up into groups, and have class discussion.

But she says, the American style interactive classroom does have its drawbacks.

"When the teaching has a conversation have a talk with the students, then they jump from this topic, and then to another one. And then they will never come back!"

Guo explains she has little control over her teaching methods at her university in China.

"I am just a common teacher at my university, and I have no power to control the textbooks. I mean I have no power to control to decide which textbook I want to choose. And also um you know um it is kind of a compulsory subject in my university, I mean the English. So my achievement and also my performance of my students will be assessed, will be judged, by their score on tests. So that is why I have to teach the required contents."

Jia and Guo agree that the American and Chinese ESL and TESOL systems have pros and cons, but hope to take back a sample of both teaching methods when they return to China.