Better but not great

This week, the students have been doing their listening exams, and whilst the exams are a vast improvement on last semesters in terms of the level and quality of English, there are still a few errors. For one thing, some of the instructions have clearly been copied and pasted in, as there is the same mistake across all the exams (and it is the same as what was there last semester).

The instructions read: ‘In this section, you will three long conversations’ (the word that is missing is ‘hear’). One question was written as follows: ‘What is the man’s attitude toward the woman’s way of getting inspiration?’ The answer was multiple choice – A, B, C or D. The options were: Approving; Doubtful; Indifferent; Disapproving. The answer was typically vague, and apparently was disapproving, though when I listened to it, I felt it the answer was doubtful. Another conversation was about a man suggesting he remain at home and effectively become a house husband whilst his wife went to work. One of the answers in relation to this conservation was: ‘The man plans to go out for working’. A further option read: ‘The woman thinks the man should work outside’. Usually, working outside implies that someone works in nature – in a park, or forest say, rather than in an office. But here, it just mean that the man works (period), rather than stays in the home.

Unit 5 of the textbook – which we were told initially not to teach but then somehow appeared on the exam and so subsequently we had to cover it – is about self-esteem and what makes a good manager (listening to workers, providing constructive feedback, raising workers self-esteem etc) – which is perhaps why we were told not to cover it.

Raising students’ self-esteem is not something a lot of the teachers practice here, I would say. The girl who cried in my class, at the start of the semester, has a lot more confidence now in using English. I was explaining to her recently that she had improved and that I was impressed with how she had become more confident, and she said that no one had told her that before. I did not tell her anything profound; a large part of my job (as I see it) is to simply raise students’ self-esteem and confidence in using and communicating in English, because few others do that. That is all I did. Still, it is always nice to get compliments.

Although the exams are better than those last semester; there are still far too many issues than there should be, given this is an English exam written by English teachers in a university (albeit Chinese English teachers). Thankfully, next semester, I will not have to do these exams. The first year English major students, I can set my own exam, and the second years, I will have to design the exam myself. This might be a little challenging, but at least I will know that the English in it is accurate and there are no ambiguous or vague answers.


I got my HSK 2 result back recently, and I passed it. The total score is out of 200. Anything about 120 is a pass. I got 193 – 100 in the writing (full marks), and 93 in the listening. I am pretty happy with that. I took the exam so I could see what it was like, but it is still nice to pass and receive a good grade. I am – and already was – working towards HSK 3, which is a lot harder. This includes a writing section and the whole exam is tougher. I am aiming for a December exam time, but we will see how well I progress by then. I hope to do it – and pass – by the end of next year.

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