I enjoy teaching ESL (English as a Second Language), but I didn’t realize that I would actually enjoy having Chinesestudents and professionals in my online classes. Don’t get me wrong; it’s just that I’ve always had Filipinos and Koreans in my classes before. It was my first time to have Chinese students in class. I have also come to admit that I had so many misconceptions about their culture, their country, even their form of government. The following are some of them.
- There is no marginalized sector in a communist country, including China. I was fully convinced that communism exists to provide for every family’s needs equally, at the same time empower each citizen of a communist nation to have a decent living for the common good. However, one of my students told me that there are also many people in their country who belong to the marginalized sector. In addition, many of the poor people in their country become more visible in the streets when the Spring Festival is approaching (to beg for some money or food).
- Spring Festival refers to a festival of flowers or some sort. A student enlightened me when she explained that it simply refers to the Chinese or Lunar New Year.
- English is not considered an important language in China. Well, it seems that the Chinese actually care about the English language probably more than any other nation does. I thought that English is not that important to Chinese people; after all, their own language is supposedly the most powerful language in the world next to English. On the contrary, I have found out that they also try to master the English grammar since grade school, and they are even required to take up government-administered English exams throughout their student life. In fact, a high aptitude in the English language is a requirement to a high-paying job in China. And to many, it doesn’t matter if they have to pay a month’s worth of an average employee’s salary just to have a native English speaker teach them to speak the language well. One of my students told me that a certain school charges 4,000 yuan for two months worth of English lessons, with only two meetings in a week. ( Four thousand yuan is enough for a single woman with a simple lifestyle to survive in China for a month.)
- Shopping is not a favorite pastime in China. Because they’re a communist country, I had imagined that their people must do nothing but work most of the time. In addition, because their government requires a big amount of tax from them, most Chinese probably do not enjoy shopping. (Does that make sense?) In short, I just never thought that there would be so many shopping malls in China, particularly in Beijing, which one of my students had pointed out to me. And just like in probably every country in the world, China’s malls also teem with Chinese shopaholics, not just tourists looking for some great finds. A student advised me, by the way, that the best place to shop is not in mainland China, but in Hong Kong because the price of goods are much cheaper there.
- Crappy Internet signal is uncommon in China. I usually experience crappy signal in my 9pm classes onwards, and I would easily disregard it as a natural occurrence, where most people are supposedly online at around that time in my area. One of my students, however, took the blame. She said that in China (or at least in her area), you can expect your neighbor to access your internet starting at around 9:00 p.m. My evening classes begin at 8pm, and by 9:00, the signal becomes so poor that we have to disable our videos. She explained that it is not illegal nor legal to hack one’s neighbor’s internet service in China, and many are doing it, especially at around that time in the evening. She even added that a certain hacker’s tool is being sold in their local markets for only 200-400 yuan. The more expensive the tool is, the more powerful it is.
- China’s one child policy is strictly observed or else… I thought nobody has more than one or two children in China, and again, I was mistaken. One of my students said that it only serves as a guideline to parents, but not exactly a rule for every family to obey. Further, having more than one child–even up to seven–is not uncommon especially among the poor families in China.
- The Great Wall of China is the only place to see in China. There are many beautiful places to see in China, not only the Great Wall (of China) and this was what many of my students have told me. They assured me that there are many nature parks that would be heaven for a nature lover like me. I only wish I was able to write down the names of those places they have mentioned.
Somehow, I feel that I’ve only uncovered the tip of the iceberg. Each day, I look forward to learning more about my students and their country. I realized that my misconceptions stemmed from my very traditionalview of communism. I wonder, however, if there’s anybody out there who shares the same misconceptions that I had about the Chinese people and their modern communities.