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English teaching gets lost in translation

(China Daily)

14:35, November 11, 2011

It's not Shakespeare, but popular culture provides exposure to everyday English. These freshmen at Qiqihar University are watching the animated movie Ice Age 2 in their English class. [Photo/ China Daily]

Li Lei, a biology freshman, had studied English for years at school. But he was soon at a loss in English class at college when he could not understand sentences read aloud in a listening test.

Li's teacher spent 10 minutes explaining, word by word, the meaning of "rolling stones get no moss", a misstatement of the adage. But at the end, he was still confused.

"I don't think there's a natural transition in teaching English from middle school to college," Li said. A native of Shaanxi province, he attends Qiqihar University in Heilongjiang province, 2,500 kilometers northeast of his home.

English teaching in China has come a long way since the first national syllabus for college English was published in 1979, a year into the reform and opening-up initiative. It is now taught, as a requirement, in virtually all Chinese postsecondary institutions.

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