Monday, January 4, 2010

ESL or EFL?

Last night only one of my adult students came to class. He hadn't been there for a while. L., a forty- or fifty-something physics professor who was the head of the chapter of the Communist party at his university. And he kept saying, to Sophia, in Chinese, how happy he was to have two teachers all to himself so that he could do every conversation in the book and ask the definition of every word. Sophia and I have been getting out of the book quite a lot since I got back from Korea, but someone as old-school a learner as L. seems to relish the book. Why is he learning English? I wondered last night. His son lives in San Francisco, sure, but I can't see L. using his English for anything other than having conversations with Sophia and me. And I've heard that many Chinese people learn English, that learning English used to be the mark of someone special but now is a mandatory subject in junior high and high schools. One needs to learn English in order to get a good job, I've been told. Most of my students say they want to travel.

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