>Concentrated Oral English Training Centre


Originally uploaded by tl1138

Everyone stated the obvious about “Concentration Camp”, so they changed the name to this and, as you can see in the photo, created a mural for it.

Here’s my question: if no one had complained, would they have created a mural reading “Concentration Camp”? It may have been worth it just to see one.

>Entry 17: Friday Night Lectures on the Sunshine Campus

>Molly Foster, a fellow French major and UT alumnus, has arrived and is doing well. The students love her, and she keeps the classroom engaged and interesting. She arrived a month ago, just in time to see the new name for our program unveiled.

Concentrated Oral English Training Centre.

We have gone from a semester of Concentration Camp to Concentrated Oral English. We have gone from extremely offensive to hmmmm? If the classes are concentrated, then what are the students? Concentrated? Or just concentrating? Let me know.

The routine last semester was to hold English Corner on Friday nights. Although it’s understandable because that’s when all the students were available, there were two obstacles stopping most foreign teachers. It’s on the New Campus. It’s on Friday night.

The first isn’t bad until you combine it with the second. As a result, asking a foreign teacher to do the English Corner went from a “Would you mind doing the English Corner?” to “There is 1 million RMB sitting on the New Campus. Yeah, it’s right there.”

Under the net.

The English Corner wasn’t so bad. They provided you with free drinks and there were plenty of opportunities to meet and talk with students. Aside from the location and time, one issue was the questions that would come up. You are a foreigner. They have probably never met a foreigner before. So it makes sense that they would get curious.

How long have you been in China? Can you use chopsticks? Do you like Chinese food? Do you like China? What do you think of [city you’re in]?

And my all-time favorite: why did you come to China? One student asked me this with clear surprise in her voice. But she’s an English major. She’ll find out in a few years.

I had not been to an English Corner since October or so. Two weeks ago, they asked me to do a lecture for English majors. When?

Friday night.

Jesus. Where?

New Campus.


I asked them to move it to the old campus (where I live). They couldn’t. Then Elise proposed the following: Molly and I do the lecture together.

We combined our classes one day and played games. We played Hangman, Head’s Up 7-Up, and Musical Chairs. During the last one, they opted to ignore the music and sit down whenever they wanted, despite repeated reminders not to. It added a nice element of chaos that I really appreciated.

Elise took this idea and gave us the lecture. Molly prepared the topic, made an outline, and told her non-English major students to meet them at Building 7 where it’s supposed to be held.

Except Elise then told us it’s supposed to be in Building 3. D’oh!

On a cold Friday night, we took the bus and got off at the first stop. At building 7 to tell her students to go to building 3. Students weren’t there. We waited. Finally, ten minutes after it was supposed to start, the student organizer Patricia comes running up frantic. She’d already gathered Molly’s students and directed them to the right place. D’oh!

We entered to applause and lots of pictures. We lectured to silence, an occasional laugh, and lots more pictures. We ended with even more pictures. Your students will want to take pictures with you. Let them.

Oh, and the questions. Did I mention that? We did college life, American university life where the emphasis is typically anywhere but on the University part. At the end we opened the floor to Q & A.

A girl got the mic and related the history of an athlete named Carl Lewis. I’m not talking about a few notable accomplishments, but she gave me a thorough biography. I knew a question was coming, and I was hoping her recitation might shed some clues on what I should say.

No such luck. She asked, “How is he doing with the cancer?”


“But you’re American! You know who he is!”

She got upset. Visibly agitated that I don’t know who he is. Or was.

How is doing with the cancer?

Q & A drew to a close. Molly informed them that we have time for one more question. A young man leapt out of his seat and frantically waved his hand. I rushed to him.

“What do you think of Wuhan?”

Yep. This is your life as an English teacher in China. Want to come?

>Do you like Chinese food?

>I’m going to start something new and ban the following questions from my class:

What do you think of China/Wuhan?
Do you like Chinese food?
Can you use chopsticks?
Do you like China?

Basically, the “topics” at any English Corner. In my class, I’ll let them ask those questions on the first day. Maybe the second. But during the (alleged) exam, when I let them ask me a question, I do not enjoy hearing an inquery as to my chopsticks skills.

Which, for the record, are most excellent.

>I ♥ Friday night lectures on the New Campus

>Vicki begged me to join Molly for a lecture.

Having given lectures before, I had pretty low expectations going in. Add in that it’s Friday night on another campus twenty-minutes away by bus, and I had really low expectations.

I’m happy to say that it cleared the bar. Not that it took much effort, considering how low it sat to begin with, but I was happy to feel like I was accomplishing something. Something is better than nothing, even when I can’t quite articulate what “something” is, which might in fact make it “nothing”.

Anyways, we ended it with a Q & A session, and this was where my enjoyment skyrocketed. I always thought an orgasm was the highest pleasure for which man can yearn.

I stand corrected.

A girl got the mic and related the history of an athlete named Carl Lewis. I’m not talking about a few notable accomplishments. No, this chick literally cited his entire fucking biography.

I knew a question was coming, and I was hoping her verbatim transcript might shed some clues as to what the hell I should say. No such luck.

Her question: “How is he doing with the cancer?”

My response: “Who?”

I must stress the next part: she got upset. She was visibly agitated that I did not know who Carl Lewis is. Or was.

How is he doing with the cancer? Let me know.

At the end, Molly said there was time for one last question. I noticed a guy leaning out of his seat and waving his hand frantically. I rush over and hand the mic to him.

“How do you think of Wuhan?”

Yep. This is your life as an English teacher in China. Want to come?

>Concentrated English In A Can

>As you enter Building 7 at the New Campus and turn right, you see a mural that reads:

“Concentrated Oral English Training Centre”

Concentrated. Like in a can.

Or a ghetto.

The Chinese teachers asked the foreign teachers to come up with a name to replace ‘Concentration Camp’.

Yes, they asked us to do this. They, English teachers, who did not know how offensive Concentration Camp is, had to ask us to come up with a better name.

It’s not like it’s difficult. Intensive English Classes? Oral English? Or my suggestion: Fluent, Easy English (FEE)?

Nope. They said my suggestion was “too common”.

So they opted for Chinglish. Which is everywhere here.

Then again, the absurdity of the name does match the absurdity of this program. So I guess it all just fits together, doesn’t it?