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  • Can TEFL make you more employable? January 24, 2011
    So you’re thinking about making the big move and traveling half way around the world to become a TEFL teacher, but you are starting to have doubts about whether all the hassle is really worth it? You don’t really want to make a career out of teaching kids, so how will it help you? This, suggests […]
  • To Teach Grammar or not to Teach Grammar January 14, 2011
    William Lake poses the eternal TEFL question. This article is about teaching grammar to ESL students. The advantages and disadvantages of teaching grammar to ESL students will be discussed. At this point, it must be noted that different people learn English for a huge number of different reasons. It is my opinion that a vary degree of […]
  • Do I need a TEFL cert to teach English as a Second Language? January 11, 2011
    William Lake poses the question and proposes the answer. So, do you need a TEFL certificate to be an English Teacher? The simple answer is no! There are many options available to you with regards to qualifications and this article is going to look at the TEFL Certificate. TEFL stands for Teach English as a Foreign Language. A […]
  • The History of English Grammar December 12, 2010
    Want to know how it all began? John Lismo explains. The first stage of development of the English grammar started during the early 16th century. William Bullokar wrote and published a book entitled “Pamphlet for Grammar” in 1586. Bullokar wrote the book to purposely address the development of the English language in Latin America. The book contained […]
  • The First Teaching Job in China November 29, 2010
    By Mark Dykstra Its February 24th, 2003, in a 40 degree humid heat, i stepped off the train in Hangzhou City. I gasped for breath, as i dragged my western worldly belongings trying to maintain a fix on where my Teaching Manager was. Void of a teaching certificate, void of speaking any Chinese and having absolutely no […]
  • Bridging the gap between ESL and EFL: Using computer assisted language learning as a medium November 20, 2010
    Dr. Saad Al-Hashash discusses how the use of computer assisted language learning can bridge the pereived gaps between English as a second and English as a foreign language. 1. INTRODUCTION As Warschauer and Healey (1998) point out, computers have been used for language teaching since the 1960. However, the decision to integrate Computer Assisted Language Lea […]
  • The top 5 TEFL questions… Answered! November 9, 2010
    Are you thinking of teaching English abroad, but feel like you’ve got a gazillion questions swimming through your head? You’re not the only one! So, Emma Foers asked TEFL tutor James Jenkin, who has over 15 years’ experience, to answer people’s most common TEFL questions. Q) Which TEFL course should I do? A) There is such demand for […]
  • How a TEFL certificate can help you live and earn abroad October 30, 2010
    Louisa Walsh suggests how to get started in the TEFL profession. About TEFL There is an absolutely huge demand worldwide to learn English from a TEFL qualified native or near-native English speaking person. This enables thousands of teachers to live and earn abroad in their dream location. The first step into the industry is to take a TEFL […]
  • Popular movies – Teaching English online using scenes from YouTube October 21, 2010
    Websites like YouTube, notes Rowan Pita, have given us the capability of quickly and easily embedding videos into our own sites, blogs and through links. A great way to make teaching English online more creative, is to use this resource with students of any level as an online teaching tool. There are lots of different ways […]
  • Analysing teaching through student work October 20, 2010
    As a parent and a teacher educator, I am acutely aware of the need to “practice what you preach.” Yet, in both roles, I often find it a challenging axiom to carry out. When I warned my eldest child about the latest research on sleep deprivation, I resolved to make adequate sleep a priority in my […]

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Teaching English to prostitutes in China

By Robert Vance

“Quite a few of your English students are prostitutes,” a friend told me today as she recounted a conversation that she had with her hair stylist recently. “The guy who cut my hair told me that many of your training center’s female students come to him two or three times a week to get their hair done before they go to work.” She went on to explain that according to the hair stylist, some of my students sell their bodies at night in local hotels where there might be as many as 200 prostitutes gathered in one establishment. Other students work as “high class” prostitutes providing sexual services to just one or two likely married men in exchange for a place to live and a monthly stipend.

prostitutesI was not surprised by this revelation. The foreign staff at my training center in China had suspected for months that some of our female students were involved in the sex profession in order to make a living in a city where even decent paying jobs for uneducated people are hard to come by. The tuition at our school is extremely expensive making it almost impossible for anyone with less than a middle class income to attend. I just have too many female students in their mid 20’s who are living quite comfortably in this city with no family and no job. It simply does not add up.

Some of my students do claim that they have a job but the information is often sketchy at best. The answers are often similar as well. “I work in sales” is a common response as well as “I do business for myself” or “I work for a Japanese company.” Usually, it is made clear that more information about the job is not forthcoming.

Other students claim that they have a ‘rich’ boyfriend who is supporting them to go to school. Information about where the boyfriend lives or what he does for a living is also often vague. They are simply not interested in talking about these relationships.

I previously wrote a piece entitled Why Prostitutes in China are Learning English in which I suggested that learning English could help ‘ladies of the evening’ in China to find other lines of work. Unfortunately, I think I was a little too naive in my optimism. The Chinese education system has been saturated with English schools so much so that that acquiring proficiency in English is no longer a surefire way of obtaining a good job in China. If anything, prostitutes are learning English in China so that they can better communicate with foreign clients. After all, the foreign demand for sex services is an important key to the thriving success of prostitution in China. Recently, I came across a lengthy message board thread full of ex-pats in China giving each other advice on how and where to pick up girls. Learning English may not lift a girl in China out of a life of prostitution but it certainly can improve her prospects within the business.

Knowing that I may be teaching English to prostitutes does not alter the way that I view students in my classes. If anything, I feel sorry for these women who are victims of an overpopulated and corrupt culture that only seems to favor the few lucky ones who have money or connections. The rest of the population are left to ‘fend for themselves.’ Some make the right choice and some do not, but for too many in China, life is still all about survival.

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