We love our daily work teaching students and writing, but every once in a while we get a chance to stop and feel very grateful for our decision to become English language teachers. This burst of gratitude happened to us last week when we had the opportunity to visit China and present at the SETRA teacher training conference in Nanjing.
Traveling is best when one has a chance to get to know local people, and we had a great time with our hosts Lillian, Larisa, and the head of the conference, Jane (Ji Ling). Here is Colin with our translator, Wendy, who also gave a presentation.
Lillian and Larisa became good friends of ours over the course of the week as we shared many meals and talked about everything from raising children in the modern world to the different ways to enjoy duck.
We also met colleagues from all over the world. Here is one of the many dinners we shared with teachers from Australia, England, China and the U.S. For a few days, we got to hear ex-pat stories and imagine what it might be like to live and work and be part of an international community. Matthew on the left was about to embark on a bicycle trip down the Yangtze River.
Presenting was also super fun. We connected with local teachers, graduate students and others who seemed very eager to try out new approaches to language learning. Colin talked about lexical grammar and how it levels up grammar learning by embedding small bits of grammar and vocabulary into phrases that can make content area learning more efficient.
Alice, who has to have a tree in every presentation, applied the same principle to conversations, advancing the view that the natural dialog of scripts and plays can provide material for rehearsing conversation, practicing pronunciation and intonation, and identifying vital language chunks that support speakers not only in exchanging information but also managing relationships.
After the conference, we were able to experience the landscape of so much Chinese art and literature. Here is The Humble Administrator’s Garden, a jewel of a park that has been meticulously preserved to evoke that sense of tranquility one often sees in ancient Chinese art.
We return inspired and more determined than ever to produce materials that will help
people connect across continents and cultures. It’s about grammar and vocabulary, yes, but the ability to level up and look at language in larger chunks that serve specific purposes in specific contexts might make that process just a little easier.