poet’s adventure in shanghai

Dear Poet,


Studying on that programme of yours is the envy of your contemporaries. So seize the day and work hard. Build on your success in your undergraduate studies and I expect you will leave your graduate school with flying colours. And the job opportunity will be bright and you may end up working for the WORLD.


Glad you have a clear picture of your ability to use the language. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of your present capabilities. Your story is a typical Chinese one. Most Chinese students share your experience – after passing lots of exams in the country, you still find your English inadequate when it comes to using it in real life situations. Just as you put it, your huge number of vocab words do not work.


Dear, it is not your fault. Actually I bet you were one of the best students in your undergraduate classes and that is why you are now in Shanghai. Chinese students, as well as teachers, have not got ample exposure to the language in use, especially in real life. Who uses English in daily life? It is impossible. We are Chinese, aren’t we? But in some countries, although English is not the native language, it is a second or working language, like in India and Pakistan. Students from those countries of course would feel very comfortable with a UN University teacher with a heavy French accent, because the students themselves do not speak PERFECT English. But English has been part of their life. They speak and listen much more than their Chinese counterparts.


Your knowledge is still useful. Please do not throw it away. Once you improve your talking and listening skills, you will find your good knowledge of the language of great help to you. The trouble is not that Chinese students and teachers should not learn knowledge of English. The trouble is that we do not have the opportunities to put it to use, to use it in a lively way and for a meaningful purpose. It is generally acknowledged round the globe that Chinese students read well, and write OK, but their speaking and listening do not match their paper skills or exam skills.


What should do you do now? You have already got a perfect learning environment now. So lucky you are studying with students from other countries. My first tip is to go and mix with them, in class and after class. Take initiatives to interact with them. Their English is not PERFECT English, I dare say, but you will find their English functions very well. Your goal is the same. Do not attempt to say perfect British or American English. Try to make yourself clear and improve your fluency.


My second tip is to use the city for your learning purposes. Shanghai is the most multi-cultural Chinese city. Hopefully there is a whole new world for you to explore. Though you have your learning tasks, I still believe as long as you are daring, you will find some unexpected learning chances.


Learning on the web is fun, but it is not everything. Happy you will have your own donkey (I call my computer my donkey). Learn to control it and integrate your online time into your daily life. Some college students fall victim to the web. Never let the web control you.


For people like me, who lack a good learning environment, the web provides a perfect place to be. I use it to search and to create a learning environment for myself. I will tell you in detail one day how I take advantage of it. In this letter, I will answer your question on chatting in English online.


To use UC, take the following steps, please.


1. Download the UC messenger.

2. Set it up on your donkey.

3. Buy a headset with a mike and earphones in place.

4. Adapt your mike to the donkey. The mike is a piece of hardware. This step is very important. On either Windows or Vista system, you can find the button for tuning your mike to work well with the donkey. Follow the directions step by step.

5. Apply for a UC number.

6. Find the button on the UC messenger for chat rooms and click on it. Then you will find a lot of rooms there.

7. Find the English chat rooms and enter the section. Choose one and you will find yourself taken to the room.

8. Listen and chat with a pal. It is ready.


Actually I don’t stay in the rooms long. I speak there an hour a day. The room is China English and the time 6:30 – 7:30 pm. Name Shengliver. Haha.


There are a number of international messengers working the same way. After you are comfortable with the UC messenger, you may try application programmes like Skype, OICQ, Yahoo Messenger, and Paltalk. You could meet people on them from everywhere.


Please remember you are master of your donkey. Don’t let your donkey abuse you.


Good luck with your learning in the oriental metropolis and hope you will be able to follow the French-accented lady soon.







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