TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Students and Friends: (November 2013)
This academic year is my third
year on the faculty at Xiamen University, though I've taught in China
since 2000. For the past three years, the university has kept changing my
job. The first year, I taught sophomore oral
English on the Zhang Zhou campus; last year, I taught
freshmen on the Hai Yun campus. I don't miss
the ferry we had to take from Zhang Zhou (see the map below), but I DO
miss the convenience of riding a bike to the Hai Yun campus from our
apartment! Fortunately, Vivian and I can still enjoy some of the great
relationships that started in my first two years, because all of those
students are now on the main campus, and they know they can join us any
Friday for lunch in the Fu Rong student caferteria.
This year, I'm not only teaching
new, older students (juniors and seniors),
but I'm also teaching a new course: The American Ways, an introduction to
US history and culture. The textbook is great, but I'm finding it
difficult to keep up with my own high standards for class preparation.
Nonetheless, the students seem to be enjoying the content and discussions.
This course will continue next semester, and hopefully I'll be able to
repeat it next year.
During my first two years,
majored in International Economics and Trade; this year, my juniors have
this major, but my seniors come from many departments. Our goal is not
only to help them understand western culture, but also to have a broader
understanding of their own culture and greater comprehension of important
intercultural concepts. Along the way, I'm also helping them make progress
in Oral English--a tool that they will hopefully use often in their future
I love being back at
Xiamen University (especially since I'm on the
OTHER side of the desk!). In 2011, moving back to Xiamen was like "coming home"
because this was the first Chinese city I ever lived in. But little
remains of the spots that were so familiar to me back in 1985-87, when I
studied Chinese at the main Xiamen University campus (you can see a few
photos here and
here). Vivian and I visited
this beautiful city twice in the past decade, so it was not difficult to
convince her to allow me to accept this teaching position!
If you are new to krigline.com,
There is plenty to see, even if some (many?) of the 150+ pages are out of date! For
example, I have a page listing many of the resources available for students and
teachers. On the
left of the Student Connections page (this page), my students (or
any English-learner) can find links to helpful resources.
You might also look at our
articles index or
section (Frequently Asked Questions). Our photo
album and movie study guides are also popular. The site map has a
handy list of most pages. I expect to switch to a different server early in 2014, so that may
disrupt Krigline.com (not krigline.com.cn). My son
and I are also trying to completely update the look of the site, but we
are both too busy to make quick progress!
In the meantime, I dare not delete old pages, because I've found that many
are useful to English-learners and teachers far and wide.
If you live in Xiamen and want to hear about
special opportunities to use English, please write to us (see below).
People often ask what I do in my spare time.
I spend a lot of time preparing or "perfecting" class materials,
and we frequently invite students or friends over to see a film or do
other things in English. (Vivian and I especially like "old movies" and
films about "true stories".
Vivian's main hobby is
electronic scrapbooking.) We now have two kids and two grandkids to keep
up with in the US, so that has become a "hobby." I also play the guitar a
bit, and we like helping out at church and at
The Bridge (in nearby Zeng Cuo An) in various ways. Unfortunately, I do not have time for
private students or time to edit things written outside of my class
requirements. Vivian tutors a few people, but her schedule is pretty
full--but if you are a college student who wants help with pronunciation,
she might be able to fit you in (she taught pronunciation at
us if you want to know the details. (Click to see more "frequently asked
Another question people often ask is: "How can I improve my
English?" My usual answer is “USE your English as much as
possible!” (Click here for a longer answer!) Reading is very helpful, and if you want to write better,
then write! (My textbook can also help.)
You should also take advantage of informal gatherings (like the "English Corners"
in many areas, like The Bridge).
If you are a foreign student in the US, join a hobby or interest-based club and/or attend a
church--you'll find lots of friendly people with whom to practice your
English. I also have Chinese friends (with great English) who says their secret is watching
movies in English! Do whatever works for you, but your English won’t get
better unless you DO something!
To help, I have provided a "learner
just for students, and my former students have written
descriptions for a number of their favorite
English-leaning websites. I’ve also posted my own
Study Guide. In addition, you can find good
examples of short
student essays; check them out! On our
"resources" page, a friend and former colleague shares some more
advice in his "English Corner
tip of the month." Finally, click in the box on the bottom of every
page of this website; it can take you to our most popular pages.
you know about other helpful English- or Chinese-language learning
websites? Please tell me about them! Also visit my website often to see
More about me and this website:
I wear two "university
pins"--one for Xiamen University and the other
for the University of Akron in Ohio (where I
taught in 2011, where my parents taught until retirement, and where our son
attends college now). Though I try to always use English around my students, I speak some
Chinese too, and "learning Chinese" is a life-long process. I have
formally studied Chinese for three years (at Xiamen
University, Yunnan Normal University and
Kunming College). I
also invested five years writing Successful
Writing for the Real World, an advanced writing textbook for use in
China (published March 2008 by Foreign
Language Teaching and Research Press; you can find out
more about the book by clicking here).
While I was writing my book, I
the daunting task of attending to the 150+ pages of this website (and
I've never quite caught up!). Now, Microsoft no longer supports FrontPage
software (which this site was created with), so I'm thinking of trying to
convert the whole thing to a different format, like Joomla (but of course this will take a huge amount of time, so if you
know someone interested in helping, please write me!).
As you can see, I'm kind of busy,
so don't expect a lot of regular changes to this website. But I'll try to
keep it working, for the sake of my own students and the many who "surf
here" to improve their English or learn more about China.
Xiamen University, International Economics and Trade
Our email address is on the
bottom of our Home page, as well as on our "Current