Dennis and Virginia Roth Teach English in China

March 2010
We have always enjoyed traveling – both at home and abroad. After retirement, however, our focus changed. Since we had the time, the fast-paced - see as much as you can in a week or two - suddenly paled beside the idea of actually spending time in a place and getting to “experience” it, rather than just see it.

When we were given the chance to “experience” Chinese culture by teaching English for one term at Leshan Teacher’s College in Sichuan Province in China, we accepted the challenge, bought our tickets, packed our suitcases (what do you put into two suitcases to last through summer and winter in a foreign country?), got our Visas (overnighted to us after we left home!), and hurriedly got on a plane for China.

We did not speak Chinese, and less than 1% of the people in Chinaspeak English, especially in the inland SichuanProvincewhere we were going. We bought a translator that talked for us, and spewed out Chinese characters, and a couple of Chinese phrase books. Generally that worked fine – although our students were our real lifeline for some translations.

All students in Chinastudy English in elementary school and high school, and most were proficient in reading and writing English . . . BUT they needed classes in “Listening and Speaking”. Most had never met a “foreigner” or had the opportunity to hear English spoken (except on carefully prepared tapes and American movies), or to speak it themselves. The students were enthusiastic, both about having “foreign” teachers, and about learning to speak English.

Leshan (and much of China) is a city built on a hill, with many hills and steps to climb.   City living is in high-rise condominium buildings, so people spend much of their time outside – in the parks, on the river, in the markets, on the streets - in the heat and in the cold. Most buildings do not have heating and/or air conditioning – so trendy down jackets are everyday dress in the winter – at home, at school, and outside. Buildings under six stories do not usually have elevators, so a six story apartment, which may have a roof garden, means climbing six flights of stairs.

We were provided with a small third floor (no elevator) apartment in a teachers’ building on campus. It did include a small a/c & heating unit (with cap on heat of 60 degrees), a kitchen with hot plate and microwave, a semi-automatic washer (no dryer in a hot and cold humid climate, and most importantly - a flushable Western toilet with a seat (most Chinese toilets are “squatting” toilets). We were also given a “salary” that covered our living expenses quite adequately. Our decreased expenses at home covered the cost of the tickets to Chinaand outfitting our apartment with extra things we thought we needed, so it was not an expensive venture.

Although we did not travel much in the huge country of China, we were able to visit Beijing, Xian, and many interesting places in SichuanProvince. At the end of the term, we also took a “rest, relax, and sun” time in Thailand– a worthwhile destination.

It was a great adventure! There is constantly a need for English teachers of any type (we do not have teaching degrees) around the world. Chinaand many other Asian countries are trying hard to find native English speakers to give them the experience of listening and speaking. If you might be interested in this type of adventure, we would be happy to give you more information about our experience there.

 Dennis and Virginia Roth