For years people have been going abroad to study in order obtain their BA or Master’s degree rather than stay in China. In a hugely competitive job market, further education overseas is viewed as far more prestigious than a domestic qualification and will certainly give someone a better chance to be in the pile of CVs that are shortlisted after a job interview. Figures vary, but it is estimated that over 1.5 million Chinese students will choose to further their education in another country. These days even high school students are getting on board, where their parents see this move as a substantial investment for their family’s future.
Spoken English is now one of the major stepping stones for success in China and many training centres have sprung up to accommodate the huge number of students who need to pass their entrance tests for colleges abroad. People from all over the country will travel to the larger cities spending months improving their English levels in a bid to maximise the chances of meeting targets.
Universities in Western countries give conditional acceptances to non native speakers. A student must get the required scores in either IELTS which stands for the International English Language Testing System or in TOEFL, the Test of English as a Foreign Language. Both are split into reading, writing, listening and spoken parts each contributing towards an overall total. Even countries which do not speak English as a first language require the student to pass these tests with Germany, Norway, Holland and Denmark being other popular destinations.
Regarding speaking, students are assessed according to the following criteria:
- Fluency and coherence
- Grammatical range and accuracy
- Knowledge and use of lexus/vocabulary
It’s therefore not surprising that so many people need to sharpen their speaking skills before their exam. Not only should they be proficient English speakers but they also need to approach things with a degree of confidence and freedom from any set models or ideal answers that many text books provide. Instead of learning spontaneity and an ability to interact with others, some choose to memorise text which can backfire if they are not careful. An examiner can easily spot a candidate reciting; their eyes looking up and to one side as they try and remember their answer is always a tell tale sign.
With China’s rapid economic growth, more and more professionals are finding themselves having to interact with English speakers. They may find themselves in one or more of the following situations:
- Working in a foreign company with English speaking colleagues.
- Travelling abroad to attend meetings.
- Entertaining clients who have come to China to do business.
- Regular overseas communication with foreign companies. Often this will involve conference calls with multiple parties involved.
To many professional people, speaking is not just a matter of learning business English. Of course this is an important aspect of communication here but when we look at the real facts things start to look very different.
- Professional people are often older than those on the IELTS and TOFL treadmill. Their educational background may well come from a time when English speaking was largely ignored in most middle or high schools with emphasis being placed on lexis and grammar, reading and written tests. As a result, many professionals, despite their veneer of maturity, may feel very self conscious and embarrassed when conversing with an English speaking client if they know their ability is under par.
- They may feel great pressure in delivering effective and coherent communication in the successful implementation of business. This also applies to essential listening skills. I have taught many professionals that are absolutely terrified of conference calls with little to no knowledge of how to comprehend the bulk of what a fluent native English speaker is saying. Regarding listening, a client’s nationality may also have a huge bearing on the proceedings with American and British English being the usual concern.
Professionals come to class not necessarily to hone their business English. Instead, surprisingly you will find that they will be attending your class to address the basics, often sitting self consciously at the back of the classroom while the university students engage in higher levels of fluency.
Many Chinese people already have substantial grasp on the English language and already learnt lexis and grammar from an early age at school. However, most will complain that there is nothing in place designed to allow them to put all that hard work into practice. Having said that, when someone walks into your classroom for the first time, there is a strong chance that they will have an excellent passive ability with the basic elements already in place.
Overall whether professional or student, requirements are normally the same in that people just need to be shown the way and learn how to bring spoken English into their lives with a measure of confidence.
Categories: 02 - About the Lesson Plans