So this weekend many of the university students will have had the TEM4 (Test for English Majors) exam. This is a national exam, and it is very important to pass in order to get a bettter job.

There are many of these national english exams for university students in China; CET4, CET6, TEM4, TEM8, etc… They are not that easy, and have sections on vocabulary, dictation, composition, cloze, passage and note-taking.
Even for the native speaker these exams can be somewhat confusing, especially the vocabulary section. Here’s some examples:

 6. ____ man can now create radioactive elements, there is nothing he can do to reduce their radioactivity.

A.    As
B.    Whether
C.    While
D.    Now that


5.____ his knowledge and academic background, he is basically stupid.

A.    But for
B.    According to
C.    For all
D.    Thanks to


53. Britain’s press is unusual _____ it is divided into two very different types of newspaper: the quality press and the popular press.

A. in how
B. in what
C. in which
D. in that

25. According to the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, wisdom comes from the _____ of maturity.
A.    fulfillment
B.    achievement
C.    establishment
D.    accomplishment

32. All experts agree that the most important consideration with diet drugs is carefully ____ the risks and benefits.
A.    weighing
B.    valuing
C.    evaluating
D.    distinguishing

It’s a shame that they don’t have national exams in speaking, as this is argueably the most important thing for them to master, if they are to use english in their future line of work.  Though I wonder how they would be able to examin spoken english exams, the simply don’t have the manpower to be able to do it.

But what I wanted to get on to is the topic of cheating.  Before I came to China, I thought cheating was 100% wrong.  Bad. Something you just don’t do. 

However, living here has altered my perception somewhat.  

In China cheating is an industry, it’s big business, it’s Institutionalised. 

It’s really quite simple to do, here’s a guide for the un-iniatated:.


  1. Contact that phone number on one of the many posters dotted around campus that advertises ‘how to get the answers’
  2. Make arrangements with friends on how to split the costs involved.  i.e. 1500yuan/10 people = 150yuan each. suddenly it becomes affordable.
  3. Decide on what answers to buy – there are many sources – afterall this is a business. Costs vary from 1000yuan up to 3000yuan and so does the quality, so i’m told. 
  4. Hire any necessary communication devices that may be required.  Walkie-talkie ear-piece devices that can allow someone outside the exam hall to feed information to the recipiet. (virtually undetectable to those with long hair)


That’s it. Really simple and easy and cheap. I know students that have paid as little as 100 yuan (as a group of ten) and 40yuan each to hire the listening equipment. 

  However, sometimes the ‘cheat’ answers are wrong, and there is no guarantee that you will pass.  Of course there is a chance that you might get caught, and if you are really clumsy that might happen, though I doubt it.   If you do get caught, you’ll just get a slap on the wrists. You won’t get kicked out of university, and it will make no difference to anything of any consequence. 

 The examiners know this goes on, it’s part and parcel, par for the course.  Indeed, one wonders where the answers originate from, maybe the examiners are making a fast buck, who knows.


And so when my student’s ask me ‘is it okay to cheat?’  I say it is most certainly not okay, in my professional opinoion. In my personal opinion I think there is no problem with it, it is just another case of playing the system, to your maximum advantage. 



An interesting point came up in one of my classes yesterday, when we were having a debate on cultural differences.  One of my students started to use the word ‘nigger’ when making reference to black people.  Of course this word is now unacceptable and has negatvie connotations and is considered racist by most. 

 The reference was in his vocab book, and other students knew the word and thought it was okay to use in general conversation.   I told them that this is word that is no longer in general use and it’s meaning is pejorative, and shouldn’t be used. 

I told my class that in english we no longer refer to Chinese people as Orientals or Chinamen or worse Wogs. They asked me why is this?  

Why don’t I call you all the ‘Sick man of East Asia’  东亚病夫 ‘dong1 ya4 bing4 fu1’ or maybe you refer to me as ‘British big nose’  ‘英国大鼻子’ ‘ying1 guo2 da4 bi2 zi5’

 I said that preventing discrimination and increasing equal opportunities – in recent years- have become an important cornerstone in society, the idea that everyone is entitled to be treated on hi/her own merits. And this is reflected in the type of language people use. I also said that times change, and peoples attitudes change with them, words are the same. Words change over time, language is not static.  It evolves over time. 

I think they understood, though It must be strange to be told that using a word in your native language is okay, but using it in english is not.  A good example of this in Chinese is 外国人 (wai4 guo2 ren2)  or 老外 (lao3 wai4) both meaning foreigner.  Chinese people use these words to describe anyone who is not from China.  It’s okay and accepted – although many foreigers that I know don’t like it when they are referred to as 老外 (lao wai). 

If I say for example ‘look at the foreigners’  it could be considered offensive.  But if I am Chinese and I say ‘wai guo ren’ ‘kan’ ‘kan’- no problem.

It’s difficult not to sound like a racist when making such comparisons, i guess it is mainly a question of different cultures having different ways of doing things. 

 Another word that came to my attention was ‘cripple’.  my immediate reaction was to laugh -i didn’t think she actually said that word!- then I told them that ‘disabled’ is perhaps a better word to use.  They didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘disabled’  (actually the meaning of disabled is quite different from cripple) and thought it odd that words become fall out of use because they are deemed politically incorrect.

 So I gave some more examples: policeman, fireman, chairman (Chairperson Mao doesn’t quite have the same ring to it!), worker, foreigner, etc etc etc.  

For me one of the good things about the Chinese language is that they don’t worry about  political correctness as much as other languages, and this is reflected in the english that many of the students use.  

The question is when do I tell a student that the language he (or she) is using is not politically correct?  

 Personally I just use my common sense. If someone wants to use the word ‘workman’ then fine, if they use ‘cripple’ then i’ll tell them what I think.

Maybe there is a danger of going to far, for example, manhole cover being replaced by maintance cover. Waitron for waitress or waiter,   the list goes on – replacing these words seems like a waste of time to me.
If the language is sexist/racist or pejorative then fair game, but  I don’t agree with change for change’s sake.
Here is a good example I found, allbeit a little over the top:

The fireman put a ladder up against the tree, climbed it, and rescued the cat”

The firefighter (who happened to be male, but could just as easily have been female) abridged the rights of the cat to determine for itself where it wanted to walk, climb, or rest, and inflicted his own value judgments in determining that it needed to be ‘rescued’ from its chosen perch. In callous disregard for the well-being of the environment and his and others health and safety, and this one tree in particular, he thrust the mobility-disadvantaged unfriendly means of ascent known as a ‘ladder’ carelessly up against the tree, marring its bark, and unfeelingly climbed it, unconcerned how his display of physical prowess might injure the self-esteem of those differently-abled. He kidnapped and unjustly restrained the innocent feline with the intention of returning it to the person who claimed to ‘own’ the naturally free animal. The firefighter later filed a lawsuit claiming compensation for unjustly suffering the indignity which happened to breach his Human Rights and exposure to possible injury that climbing a tree entails. He won 100% compensation, thus making tree climbing impossible forever. The council later cut the tree down to avoid such an incident occurring again.



It’s freezing in my apartment. 🙁

For the last few days I have been wearing thermals with my large winter coat. Indeed as I type this, I am wearing my black ski-jacket and three layers of trousers, – and I still feel cold!

bbc forecast

It isn’t that cold outside, just gets a little below freezing at night. According to the weather forecast it’s pretty mild and much warmer than recent weeks.
But In the last week I have felt more cold than at any other time this winter, including when it was -30C outside.

It’s all because there hasn’t been any central heating since the 6th (well in my apartment anyway – earlier in others!)


Well, here April is considered by the city government to be ‘spring’. So the heating gets shut down. Of course, technically it is spring. Really it’s still winter; there are no flowers and the grass is still brown. Really it should be on for another month, but I guess it saves the government money, and that’s pretty important here.

It’s at times like these, I wish that I had bought that electric blanket, and do I remember it being like this last year too, but at the time, I put it down to my ancient dungeon of an apartment. Which had very small windows and was always cold!

Computer Games

One of the great things about China is that you can buy pretty much anyhting, for a really decent price. Today, I stocked up on my already extensive computer game collection and bought a few more DVDs. pirated computer games more 3yuan compter games

Here I ‘collect’ computer games/DVDs, like a person in the UK collects stamps or antiques.

Of course they are dirt cheap (6yuan for DVDs, 3yuan for CDroms), and the quality of the copies has become indistinguishable from the genuine thing. I remember when I first came to China, sometimes buying a dodgy copy; but the pirates are getting better and more sophisticated with their methods.

Which is probably a bad thing, but it doesn’t bother me much.

The Beijing government often trumpets about how it is clamping down on copyright and intellectual property infringement. Personally I think that Beijing has little control of what happens outside the major cities.

It is very seldom that the DVD shops/stalls will only sell ‘genuine’ copies and the pirated 6yuan ones are hidden away from view.

I once went to a local electronics market and noticed that the shops were empty, apart from a few token items such as CD cases/dust covers. I was told that the vendors sometimes have to hide all the DVDs/Computer games at certain times/dates. This is because someone from Beiijng/Copyright Ministry is going to be performing ‘spot checks’, and if they are caught they face serious consequences.
The local police (who are of couse bribed by the businessmen, tip-off the traders beforehand) Those that dont pay the bribes I guess are the ones that get caught and are paraded before the media as a testiment to the success of the Chinese authorities actions.

The thing is, everyone knows that this goes on. The copyright ministry people know that the shops that are empty usually sell pirated DVDs. It’s a very Chinese solution to a problem, that is, if you can’t see it happening, it isn’t happening.


Went to a great fast food place today, kind of a poor-mans KFC. Chinese style fast food, actually pretty good and cheap. But the thing that made me laugh is the name of chain – Dicos.
dicos! dicos restaurant

The food isn’t quite as good as KFC, the burger I had was smaller and drier than the KFC one. However, the atmosphere is very simlular and the layout/design of the restaurant copies the Mcdonalds/KFC style and even the decor is simular. It was worth a try, but I think if I want fast food I’ll stick to KFC.

I wonder who came up with the idea of ‘Dicos’ as a brand name? Did some people sit down one day and say ‘Dicos, what a great name’ – I wonder if they had any other contenders, if so ‘Turdos’ ‘Crapos’ and ‘bollockos’ might have had a chance.

Yes I know that it has a Chinese name 德克士 (de ke shi) and most of their clientele are Chinese, and so won’t notice the english signage – but still, if you’re going to use english – get it looked at by a native speaker.

Anyway, it’s a funny joke for those that understand english, one thing for sure though; it’s a unique brand and instantly recognisable!!


This afternoon I had nothing much to do, so I thought a bit of investigative research was in order and since I’m a bit of a nerd, this could actually be good-fun!
So I started to do some digging on the net, primarily focused around teaching in Changchun. Found some useful stuff, but mostly pretty poor disinformation. Lots of job ads, mainly for un-licenced illegal language schools, or those really bogus recruiters that have such a bad name in Changchun no-one here would ever agree to work for them – so they use the net to hire their unsuspecting victims!

At eslteachersboard.com there are a few reviews on schools in Changchun.

There I found this review Changchun Star Education Company – the first review I have found on them anywhere on the web! And I have looked Everywhere!!! Yes, I thought. Some Information from another former teacher! I knew I wasn’t the only one!

Source: http://www.eslteachersboard.com/cgi-bin/forum/index.pl?noframes;read=5308&expand=0


Posted By: Johan
Date: 23 January 2005

In Response To: Visa advice for China (Dos)

I am so sad that I did not read your information with regards to Vis.
I came to china with a “Z” visa. I was employed by a company Star Education in Changchun, Jilin province. This company treated me and other Foreign teachers like S-h-i-…
Well 1 of them left the country already, after threats from the company. I try to stick it out, now they refuse to hand me back my passport, and demand that I give them 2000USD to get my passport back, which I refused. I am now travelling between different departments, and cannot find a person responsible enough to get my passport back. Unfortunately I am far from Beijign and therefore far from my Embassy. If you can assist me I will appreciate it. I believe that I am a good teacher, and would like to stay longer in China, but this Star Education is leaving a very bad taste in my mouth.
You can also contact me on my mobile 13500975013
I am of to bed, as I will travel tomorrow yet again to Changchun, 400km away, to see another official who will talk again.

As I read this i thought it sounded a little odd, badly put together, simple mistakes, tense irregularities – like it had been written by a non-native speaker, like reading one of my student’s work. Some of the choice or wording seem a little weird and the information within it even I find difficult to believe. Also Johan is rather a strange name for a native speaker (Cruyff i hear you say) , though this doesn’t mean he couldn’t have worked for Star, as they hire plenty of non native white-faces.

I know that many of the Foreign Teachers at Star let them keep their passports in the company safe for security reasons, but this is the choice of the teacher. Personally, I would never let anyone else keep my passport, but many like it to be kept under lock and key, in a safe place. I also know that those teachers had to sign a form stating that they give their permission for the company to keep their passports.
Holding a passport is actually one of the few things that can get a company into trouble, of course though, if it has the right connections then this problem can quickly disappear.

I then found this review on the same website:

Source: http://www.eslteachersboard.com/cgi-bin/review/index.pl?read=4008


Posted By: Johan
Date: 24 February 2005

I sometimes read remarks about some schools, recruiters and then I wonder how much of is truth or how much is garbage….
Myself and more than 70 other foreign teachers work for Tianshuo, and we are happy.
I contacted, sorry tried to contact, one of this so-called complainers, and I got through to a Chinese company, makes you think, doesn’t it.
Tianshuo, cares for its teachers, and believe in an open door policy, they frequently asks for feedback, to make life easier for its teachers….remember This is China !!, and many teachers have a problem to adapt after the initial holiday feeling. When they realize that they have to work to earn money, and that Chinese students are keen to study.
SO for all the teachers who think to come to China and TEACH, I personally recommend Tianshuo in Changchun..they are the best.
johanvr_8@hotmail.com (and this is my real name, for the people who want to write or complain, use your real name)

This made me laugh. What a load of rubbish.

Tianshuo or TS Education Language in their current guise (they like to change names a lot for obvious reasons) is a truely disgusting company. I went to their offices once (in the 21st century building, jiefang da lu) and they offered me a contract that I politely refused. I was introduced to them by the police, and I now know that they are ‘run’ by the police. They have .very serious guanxi in Changchun and have total impunity from any wrongdoing. Furthermore, they treat their staff like pieces of 屎 , and you will have problems, then you are shafted. They have stolen passports before, I know of at least one person who had this happen to them. The embassy got involved, and were powerless as TS said that the Teacher owed them money which of course he did not.
They have many Pilipinos working as ‘foreign experts’ who are farmed out to schools all over the province, they give their Pilipinos 1500-2000 a month, and a ‘private room’ to live in. Means that TS can rake in the profits at the expense of the teacher, paying half what they should pay to a Foreign teacher and giving them a hole to live in. Also like Star they are prone to deduct ‘fees’ from your wages, so you’ll seldom get a full pay-packet.

Anyway, Johan is a make-believe character created by someone at TS / Tianshuo/ Tianyuan (whatever the’re called now) Made me laugh anyway.

Either way, If there were a football division for employers in Changchun, Star and Tianshuo would be propping up the two lowest spots.

This Morning

Spent this morning standing outside a major shopping centre with cap-in-hand and a piece of cardboard out on the pavement in front of me; saying that ‘ I have no money, no job, and i need your help’

Over a period of 2 hours I got 26yuan and 2jiao from passers by.

Website Upgrade

I’ve decided that this site needs updating, so for the next few days it will be not working very well.
Plan to put lots more stuff on here- especially about teaching – when the upgrade is complete. Which will probably take longer than I think.