Contract Re-Negotation

It’s that time of the year again; for many of us educators, tutors, teachers and mentors; the end is nigh.

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The end that I’m talking about is the end of the Chinese school year, which like the American school year ends in June rather than November (Aussie Aussie Aussie)

So now that it’s April, some among us (including me) have begun casual conversations about contract re-negotiation that will happen around May/June.

 

Some of us have beautiful contracts that include weeks of no work through the summer (but still getting paid) beautiful high paychecks every month; sick pay, vacation pay, all the pay’s.

My pay isn’t like that, mine is a little on the cheaper side, includes no paid off-days in the year and no vacation time.

This is a bit of an unusual deal for foreign teachers these days, as English becomes more in demand, competition for good teachers increases, companies and individuals get richer so pay for teachers goes up. This describes the golden world of English teaching.

However I’m not here as an English teacher, I’m here teaching drama.

And drama isn’t nearly as golden and shiny in the view of many, and for good reason.

Last semester I taught weekend drama classes every week, my pay was fantastic and I had a ball doing it. Unfortunately (like I’ve mentioned in previous posts) students here study 7 days a week, and courses (such as English, Math, Science, Chinese) are all fighting for their attention.

On top of that, students are all fiercely competing for spots at good schools, the enormous child population outweighs the spots there are in reputable schools.

Someone currently in kindergarten moves to primary, someone else moves from primary to middle school etc, they must fight for a good school. Because of this, schools have exams that students must take in order to prove themselves for entry, the more prestigious the school, the more intense the exam.

My subject (yay drama!) Is not part of anyone’s exam, therefore my class took up 90 minutes each Sunday that could have been otherwise spent studying a subject that would have given the student an edge on these exams and pushed them ahead.

What I’m teaching is a little bit of a glamour subject, fashionable and trendy, but not necessary.

My big advantage over local drama teachers is that I speak English natively, so schools can at least justify my training to concerned parents that just allowing their students to speak with me will give them invaluable education, especially if their school offers only Chinese English teachers (there are many).

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So knowing all this I too am going into contract re-negotiation soon, but as my utility diminishes over time, I (like all of us) am going to ask for more.

I’m going to ask for more money and more benefits, and I’m absolutely losing sleep over it.

I know for a fact that the company is hoping I sign the same contract again, but after a meeting yesterday they now know I have no intention of doing that. The key will be lining up a good backup plan if all my hopes go down the swamp and I become unemployed.

I know this is a bit extreme for some people, and they would definitely advise my backing down if the company doesn’t accept my terms.

But I’ve never been very rational, and what I want is what I want. If I get what I want, I’ll spend all of next year far more positive. When bad things happen I’ll be thinking “Meh! Dollar dollar billzzzzzz” but if I don’t I’ll fall to pieces everytime things go wrong and I’ll shout “I don’t make enough to deal with this!”

So perhaps I’ll return to cruise ships? Or maybe street begging? At least I’m Australian and the streets back home are warm.

Exotic dancing? … perhaps?

Why Does China Change our Nursery Rhymes?

During my days living in China I’m beginning to find that it’s the little irregularities that are sticking out at me the most.

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A good example is the song ABC.
Kids sing the song differently here and while the change isn’t huge and the song isn’t a big deal in itself, this little difference is one of the biggest things that makes me feel like I’m in a foreign country.
Ok so try to imagine the melody while reading it spelt out below, and try to sing it in your mind. First the version I’m use to –

a b c d e f geeeee
h i j k elemenopeeeee
q r esss
t u veeeee
w x y and zeeeee
now I know my a b ceeeee
next time won’t you sing with mee

Now this is the version I hear in China

a b c d e f geeeee
h i j k l m ennnnn
o p q
r s teeeee
u v w
x y zeeeeee
x y zeeeee
now you seeeee
I can sing my a b ceeeee

Are you thinking what I was thinking!? I just about passed out! You could have tripped over the chin that I had just thrown on the floor.
Whatever happened to integrity..

Anyway,

The last part has literally dozens of variations. I’ve heard,
“There you seeeeee abceeeeee I can sing my a b ceeee”
I’ve heard “Now you seeee, I can siiiing, next time you will sing with meeee”
And many other similar versions.

It wasn’t hard to work out the origins of this catastrophe, once again using my powers of deduction and nothing else actually factual.
I figure it’s because their Chinese teachers teach them lots of preschool English songs, especially ABC because they use our letters in their everyday life.
They even use our letters to text on their phones, people write out the Chinese words with English letters and the phone autocorrects it into Chinese characters.
This answered a massive puzzle for me as I use to wonder “how do they fit 6,000 Chinese characters on a keyboard??”

I haven’t discovered any other variations of classical English high class music yet, if you know of any  let me know!

They’re welcome to take a crack at ‘London Bridge’ or ‘ Ring a Rosie’, those songs could really use an update.

Don’t watch Dubbed Films

Last weekend a mate and I decided we’d go to the movies to see Disney Pixar’s ‘Coco’ which was running dangerously close to the end of its run time in cinemas, and boy did we learn a lesson.

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After having saved money on the ticket price by smugly booking the tickets on an entirely Chinese language app we were feeling pretty good about our survivability in China.

That smugness lasted until we picked up the physical tickets at the cinema and was asked by the ticketing concierge (translated by a nearby cinema patron) whether we had realised that we had booked the 5:15pm Chinese language version of the movie rather than the 9pm English language version..

Chinese version! … Dubbing is still a thing?!

(Asks the guy who still watches the 25 language version of ‘Let it Go’ on YouTube).

I was affronted with the realisation that the tickets we’d bought were for a dubbed version of the movie, something I naively hadn’t prepared for the possibility of ahead of time.

I guess I’m so use to seeing films targeted at adults where it’s much more likely the film will be in its original language, but with Chinese subtitles added.

Kids however are not expected to watch the film and keep up with rapidly changing lines of text underneath the action.

I however want to take this opportunity to play devils advocate here and protest dubbing, even for children.

I am the poorer friend of several people living in various cities around China charging squillions to teach China’s little ones to speak English as quickly and eloquently as possible so that it sounds as natural as possible by the time they’re powerful adults.

After spending all week giving your child daily one on one English lessons and paying a fortune for it, doesn’t it seem like a good idea to make them sit through a Disney movie on a Saturday evening in English? It can only boost their learning to hear it in a natural and Disneyfied setting for 2 hours.

Perhaps Coco is a bad example, what with all the Spanish and all… but I stand by the principle!

As a kid I sat through the Chinese language film ‘Hero’ in the cinema with only subtitles to help me.

Sure I missed lots of the dialogue, but I got the plot and had a blast watching all the fight scenes.

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To the parents of the world I, the single and childless airhead tell you the following..

Make your child watch movies in their original language, especially Disney movies.If they don’t understand anything then well, the movie sure is pretty.

If they do then great! It’ll bolster their English education and provide positive English language memories and experiences.
The more that kids are exposing themselves to organic English experiences the better their own speaking will become, especially because watching a Disney movie is a lot more fun than a traditional English lesson.

Now with this inspiration go sit through the original Japanese version of ‘The Ring’ and be prepared to hate me forever

Munchy Mondays Restaurant Review .. 义山家族餐厅

This week we are in Shanghai China, and our restaurant of choice is a small family owned restaurant to the south of the city on Yishan Road called ‘Yishan Family Restaurant’ or ‘义山家族餐厅’.

While trying to find an ancient water town, I found myself in several towns and suburbs all through the outskirts of Shanghai. It was a fruitless journey that didn’t end in an ancient town, but did end with a charming little restaurant.
This was a beautiful place, tastefully decorated and staffed by lovely people who didn’t speak a word of English ha. When we arrived we were seated nicely and were excited to see our menus, unfortunately when we found them they didn’t feature a single word in English nor any pictures (my usual saving grace).

I then asked the mother in the family who owned the place, acting as waitress for the evening (in Mandarin) whether she spoke any English or whether we could see a menu in English, an unfortunate no in both cases. I then explained that we couldn’t read the menu and that we’d need help. She tried her best to assist us, but no amount of gesturing could do it. (I even mooed like a cow to symbolise that I’m happy to eat beef haha). She then found everyone in the family, and though her teenage daughter was taking English at school, she wasn’t yet confident to risk it all trying with us.
So our tireless waitress went out and found someone who could ask us a question she’d been trying to ask us for the past 10 minutes, “do you like spicy?” To which I was able to confidently reply in Mandarin a big resounding “no”.
Our luck then ran out once again as this was seemingly the only thing he could say in English, so he then pulled out his phone which converted Chinese to English and wrote us messages and told the waitress our answers, they involved questions like “fish heads you eat want?” and “Mushrooms you is eat?” and after a few more minutes they were satisfied they had planned a sufficient meal for us and left.

Although it seems painful, we had a lot of fun in the confusion and there was lots of laughter on both sides. Once the food was ordered I confidently asked the waitress for some tea, thankful to once again be able to speak some Mandarin that I was confident saying.
Until she brought out the pepsi, a big blow to my language confidence.
What then arrived at our table was a big metal bowl of vegetables and water, which she placed on the burner in the middle of the table and placed on the boil. As the food boiled it began to smell really amazing, and she returned with very thin slices of beef.

Now I’ve eaten this style of meal before, pretty much exclusively in Korean restaurants where you fry the meat on a burner in the middle of the table with some vegetables and eat it all on rice, but this was different.
Everything went into the pot, and we spooned it into bowls when it was ready, but it went one step further.

Our waitress over the course of the meal stopped being a random waitress and started being our mother, so we began to call her *Mom instead.
*(As I am still Australian by citizenship I’m going to spell it Mum for the rest of the post, Americans will have to be ok with that).

Mum was amazing. She turned up every minute or so and added more of our meat and vegetables over the course of the meal, and removed it whenever she felt it was ready and spooned it into our bowls.
Maybe she thought we were handicapped, or just big children because she did it for absolutely no one else in the restaurant, and she was the only waitress. But no matter how many people came she gave us no less attention, she still poked her head around corners checking on us, turned up and gave the pot a stir, and served us more food.
A couple times she put the meat in and kept it on the spoon and moved it up and down through the water, this hastened the cooking and it would be done faster but she would stay and do it until she had served us enough for the time being before leaving again.

We loved her so much we started talking about how great she was and how much we were going to miss her (in English) with her there and she had no idea, I translated that we were so grateful to her and she blushed and left. From that point on she came back every 10 seconds instead.

But eventually it came to an end, but not before a few more of her family turned up and they were laughing and chatting happily at the entrance to the restaurant. It was that point we knew, we had to go, her real family had arrived.
We paid and I told her (in my best Mandarin attempt for such a strange sentence) that she had become our Chinese mother. The woman that I had guessed was her daughter laughed quite a lot at that, and we left.

Overall the food was really delicious, nothing beats eating it straight out of the pot. The waitstaff despite the language barrier were the best I’ve ever had, right down to the guy with the translator phone. And I loved the family feel you just can’t simulate, this place gets a 4.5 out of 5 stars, a massive contrast to last weeks 2 star review ha.

So that’s the end to this weeks review, next Monday will be in Melbourne Australia one more time, and the week after that will be in Orlando Florida. Please subscribe for lots more action, and I’ll chat with you all again tomorrow, however if you wanna chat sooner leave a comment! See ya’s all real soon!

 

Table Talk Thursday – English is the New Spanish!

I am loving being that guy.

So I work in America, and as Americans know English is not the only language. I’m from Australia where (if your from almost all parts) English is definitely the only language. So to go work somewhere where there is enough of another language that even announcements are translated into a language besides English, let’s just say I was very surprised.

As you may have guessed, the second language for the United States is Spanish because unlike Australia there are other countries connected to it.
Im sure not that all of America has a lot of Spanish influence, but my American exposure is 90% of the south near the border so thats the experience I’m coming from.
Anyway the shock has long since worn off, but I still find myself jealous that some of the people I work with have this language that I can’t attain, this code, a way of speaking that allows them to say anything they want with little consequence. Everything I blurt out lands me in hot water, but if I had a language only a few of my friends could understand than everything would be great. So the point of all this?

My dream have come true! I’m in a place where English is that language! Some people here kind-of speak English, like the girl at Starbucks or the receptionist in the hotel, but for the most part they don’t. So I’m free as a bird!
I’m with my friend here and we’re chatting up a storm! Saying anything I please, commenting honestly on things in shops and making any natured joke I like, this is my absolute dream come true.

Do you ever find that when you leave for a trip, you take with you a song that was stuck in your head? I find that this happens to me all the time.
Well this trip its “Dongs: All over the World” from last weeks Saturday Night Live hosted by Anna Kendrick. It comes into my head all the time, wherever I am and annoys the crap out of me.
However here in China, unlike when I’m in America, I have the freedom to sing what I like!
So literally on the plane (where its most appropriate) on the street, in shops, I burst out in song.

Now I know your thinking “it doesn’t matter what language! You can’t just sing in the street!” We’re in Asia now baby, I could never sing over those pumping advertisements on the sides of buildings you know that! I just blend in.

Another awesome thing is that even though my speaking mandarin sucks, I’ve taken enough lessons to understand it a lot better than I can speak it, so when I fumbled around pointing out what I wanted at the bubble tea shop yesterday, I overheard the girl saying to the guy how funny it always was serving someone who spoke no mandarin. So I asked them (in mandarin) if either of them spoke any English or taken any lessons. The looks on their faces was absolutely golden. I’m sure they had said something bad about us (from the looks of their faces) but I don’t know any naughty mandarin yet. But either way their faces were hilarious.

Honestly the sights and tastes are always what make a holiday, but experiences like that are what make a holiday truly great. 🙂

If you would like to submit a story for todays Table Talk Thursday please submit via the messaging form on the ‘Ask a Question submit Feedback’ page. I added a box for your story.
Don’t worry I’ll format it and make it look great and credit you fully for it. Let’s get this thing off the ground 🙂
Don’t worry this thing is an experiment and if it doesn’t work out I can live with it haha, but if you like the idea then join in!

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