The Nanfang / Blog

70 Students In Shanghai Caught Using Stand-ins To Take Their CET English Exams

Posted: 12/24/2014 9:00 am

cheating school test exam

Technology has certainly made cheating on school work easier. Once upon a time, students had to write answers on their hands; now, they can input answers on their cellphones, or in dictionaries used to hide a cellphone.

Another option, of course, is to just hire someone to take the test for you, like the 70 students caught in Shanghai using substitutes to write their CET English exams.

Current regulations regarding the use of fake identification prevent any of the substitutes from being penalized. Instead, the students that hired their stand-ins could face a one-to-three year ban on taking the test. They may also be identified to their employers with a “recommended punishment”.

Photo: hujiang


Pride and Shame: Student Assaults Foreign Teacher in the Name of Putonghua

Posted: 10/9/2014 9:18 am

HKU attacking foreign English professorChina is a country of great pride, a place of fervent nationalism. If you’re wondering where such strong feelings come from, you’ll find it comes from the same place where deep regret and humiliation dwell.

Two days ago, a 26 year-old mainland Chinese student named Liu physically attacked Cliff Buddle, a British instructor at Hong Kong University, for speaking English in class. Most of HKU’s classes are taught in English, but that didn’t seem to matter to Liu. Immediately before the assault, Liu spoke in Putonghua, saying, “Hong Kong has already returned to the mainland for 17 years now, why do they still use English in classes?”

While attempting to leave the class after the assault, Liu muttered, “A Chinese should be patriotic, and learn less English.” When the police finally arrived, the self-described Tsinghua University student admitted that he thought there was nothing wrong with assaulting foreign nationals.

This isn’t the first case of Mainland resentment towards Hong Kong. Many Mainland people who live in the city complain of discrimination, as Hong Kongers have traditionally seen their Mainland counterparts as “bumpkins” with less political and financial freedom. Some who have felt the wrath of discrimination have lashed out, most notably when a teen complaining about Hong Kong admitted to killing his dog by putting it into a washing machine to incite Hong Kongers.

But then there’s the general disgust towards Hong Kong for maintaining its western-style way of life, most notably the English language. Physically assaulting an instructor, completely unprovoked, takes this nationalism to another level, and anytime something is done in the name of China naturally draws conflicting views from the people who live there.

Most of the comments online in China were disgusted by Liu’s behaviour:

What does using English to teach a class have to do with the reunification of Hong Kong? Don’t say that you’re a university student; so easily prone to violence despite your schooling, do you call this civilized behavior? [angry.emoji]

A loss of face!!!!!

[waving.emoji] Sick people need to take their medication.

An idiot who knows how to study.

If you’re not able to adapt, then don’t go to university.

No matter how long its been since reunification, it has nothing to do with your low abilities.

Patriotic without reason

Some couldn’t even believe it happened:

Is there any proof? Yet another classic case of an inflammatory post.

This has to have been meticulously set up. Normal people are incapable of doing these things.

I feel that this story is not as simple as it appears. Also, during this time of sensitivity, I think that the original poster shouldn’t post this kind of story.

And then, those who applaud what Liu did:

A beating well done. This increases our national prestige (happy.emoji)

Hong Kong people should still learn how to speak Putonghua.

Why insist on calling him a “mainlander”? In fact, what he’s saying isn’t without merit. After so many years of reunification, the English level in Hong Kong is still so much better than Putonghua!

Although I agree that everything he is saying is true, but extremism… all the same, you can’t hit people.

That guy doesn’t even understand Cantonese. On the day the world has been unified, once my great empire of China has vanquished a hundred countries, English will cease to exist.

To finish, there’s a grab bag of sarcastic comments along with those that don’t fit anywhere else, but make an argument of their own:

It’s true, you must speak Putonghua within the borders of China. This is the unbreakable rule. And yet, this is not to speak of the fact that since you’re taking my money, you have to provide me with the proper service. You don’t expect me to accommodate you, do you? Even if you’re going to teach me English, you still have to do it in Putonghua [stiflelaugh.emoji]

You have given much face to your countrymen. [tongueout.emoji]

Just saw the picture and read the comments and feel that the person in the middle of all this is still living in an age of face. The amount of face he lost is directly proportional to the amount he’s invested in this lifestyle.

(This guy is) not the least bit cultured. At the very least, Hong Kong was better when it was under the control of the UK. Chinese can’t be too arrogant and have such a high opinion of themselves.

Was it the archaic notion of “face” that prompted this assault? Did Liu feel so embarrassed at being so positively humbled by the worldliness of Hong Kong, so influenced by the west, that he was compelled to physically attack Buddle to preserve the honor of China?

Ironically, if Liu committed the assault because he felt he lost face, his assault lead to a much greater loss of face for Mainland China. Pride and shame are completely opposite emotions, but the other is never far away when you keep one close at hand.


Here’s a Youtube video news report of the assault.

Photo: Cantonese Report Station


Chinese Students Hiding Cell Phones in Oxford Dictionary Covers

Posted: 09/24/2014 3:45 pm

oxford faux dictionary cellphone coverGenerations of counterfeit culture have culminated in this.

China has come up with the perfect way to disguise a cellphone for use during class: use a faux cell phone cover that looks exactly like an Oxford pocket dictionary, reports Southern Daily.

oxford faux dictionary cellphone cover

What’s lost on these students is… does anyone use an actual printed dictionary anymore?

oxford faux dictionary cellphone cover

Netizens provide their comments on this new product:

This can only be used during English class.

Do you take your teacher for an idiot? While the teacher is giving his lesson on the podium, you’ve got either a cell phone or a dictionary in your hands. It’s so obvious at with one glance.

Gosh, now I want one too!

Not a bad idea.

Hee hee, and now I know. [nefarious.emoji]

Young people will be ruined by cell phones! It’s like a drug!

Bad influence

Whatever the motivation was of the people that designed this, this remains a disappointment.

Previously, student would have to dig out a hole in a real dictionary to hide their phones in. [laugh.emoji]

oxford faux dictionary cellphone coveroxford faux dictionary cellphone coverUnfortunately, using a dictionary cover to wrap around your phone will make it much harder to take selfies in mirrors, so it could be that carrying around a fabrication of a dictionary may prove to be a good influence in the end.

oxford faux dictionary cellphone coverPhotos: Southern Daily, Guangzhou Daily


Parents Block Traffic To Ensure Students Can Take Gaokao in Silence

Posted: 06/9/2014 5:38 pm

nanjing block traffic exam

The gaokao is nothing short of being the most important moment in a young person’s life. And as desperate times call for desperate actions, parents with only the purest of intentions have taken the extraordinary step of blocking the traffic outside a school in Nanjing, Jiangsu to ensure silence where an English listening examination is taking place, reports Nanfang Daily Report.

A full half hour before the exam began on June 8, parents blocked traffic in front of the No. 9 Nanjing Middle School as media and police looked on. Parents stood in the middle of the road and prevented any motorbikes, electric bikes or bicycles from passing through.

READ: Guangzhou, Shenzhen Gaokao Applicants Sent Off
With Emotion and Pageantry

The parents asked each of the cyclists to take an alternate route, but some of the drivers didn’t take kindly to the inconvenience as several disputes broke out, surely breaking the silence that the parents had intended.

We’ve heard a lot of wild gaokao examination stories lately: students arriving late in Jinan and Hangzhou and forced to take the exam next year; parents blocking an examiner’s car in Zhengzhou because he dared to use his horn when he was late; and, of course, lots and lots of qipao. But this is the one that shows the gaokao is a total family affair.

No words as to whether the tactic aided the gaokao-taking students, nor whether the resultant noise from the arguing disturbed anyone.

nanjing block traffic examnanjing block traffic exam

nanjing block traffic exam

nanjing block traffic exam

The sign above reads:

English listening exam for the next 15 minutes; please find another route, thank you

Photos: 163


Weekend Gallery: English Grammar Tree

Posted: 06/8/2014 10:40 am

English grammar tree As English teachers, we try our best to guide our students and improve their English. However, we can’t visualize what is going through the head of an English student when he or she is speaking English… unless, of course, the student is trying to envision a English grammar tree.

These diagrams have been kicking around QQ boards and the Chinese interwebs for years already, and we thought you’d enjoy seeing another perspective on English learning in China.

If these diagrams are confusing to you because you lack Chinese reading skills, well, they are just as mystifying to a majority of Chinese commentators:

Reading this made me dizzy! I’d rather just learn by rote memorization[picknose.emo]

Completely don’t understand this, does learning English require such lengths? Learning a new language is based on a feeling…

It’s very long, I didn’t read my way to the end[smilingwave.emo]

Really, I don’t have the patience.[dizzy.emo]

I get dizzy the more I look at this[barf.emo]

English grammar treeWhile this looks like a “handy” memorization cheat sheet, it is actually the opposite: a dynamic flow chart to allow someone to quickly navigate English grammar and tenses on the fly—if these diagrams can fit into your pocket, that is, or you can put them onto your iPad..

Guangzhou Daily described the diagrams as so:

Actually, [learning] English is just like this — Learning by rote is not as efficient as using it directly to easily learn and understand English grammar as seen in these English grammar tree diagrams. It’s been said that once anyone finishes reading this diagram, their English will improve…

Many native English speakers didn’t learn English by rote, but instead learned as the result of an adaptive process by which assimilation into a culture was reinforced by daily correcting and testing. If that proves to be outside the limits of your average IELTS applicant, well, there’s always the route of rote memorization.

As an English teacher, you should bear in mind: always see the forest for the trees.

English grammar treeEnglish grammar treeEnglish grammar treeEnglish grammar tree English grammar treeEnglish grammar treePhotos: Guangzhou Daily via Weibo


China Insider: Why Cancelling “Big Bang Theory” is a Bad Move

Posted: 04/28/2014 6:21 pm

Yes, I’m afraid this will be canon from now on: “The Big Bang Theory” is no longer broadcast on the video streaming site Sohu TV and availabe for watching in China.

To lovers of comedy and TV shows with real nerd credentials like “Community” , this is of no relevant consequence. “The Big Bang Theory” is where comedy goes to die and when a night of apathetic entertainment begins, the couch being the piece of furniture set on the lowest expectations.

But to its millions of fans around China, the cancellation of Sohu’s broadcast of “The Big Bang Theory” on April 26, 2014 is the end of an era; it’s the dawn of a sunless tomorrow. This is the day the laughter died, its laugh track hushed, forever.

Sure, there happen to be other shows that were taken off the air as well in this recent purge: “The Good Wife“, “NCIS“, and “The Practice“.  But while these shows are popular and will be missed by some, these shows don’t compare with “The Big Bang Theory“; they don’t have the same bang for your buck.

The Big Bang Theory” is:

  • a connection to the West through via safe, non-threatening characters: by being an insular group of introverted elitists, the gang (and their subsequent girlfriends/wives/sorry, Raj) will not rock the boat of orthodoxy. You will laugh at their embarrassing mistakes until you love them.
  • a reason to actually enjoy English rather than just study it: English teachers will have their own opinions, but there hasn’t seemed to be a phenomenon like this since “Friends“: an English show that Chinese English students will watch just for fun. “The Big Bang Theory” is the one popular English show that Chinese audiences don’t mind that it’s in English. That may be because like Friends, it is…
  • the only English-speaking show that they can clearly understand: Do you like “The Office“? To a Chinese audience, that’s a half-hour of mumbling interspersed with awkward moments and “Jim” reaction shots. Despite use of scientific jargon and oblique nerd references, the cast of “The Big Bang Theory” speak the way they do on English instructional lessons. That’s because it employs…
  • a “vaudeville-style” of theater familiar to Chinese audiences: the sit-com format with three cameras may be a tired format on Western media; however, the concept of a static fourth wall is fresh as ever in Chinese media, even employed during news and photo shoots. Also, “The Big Bang Theory” may be the closest Western show comparable to the sound effect-laden dischord of Chinese variety shows.
  • a set of well-done subtitle translations: even if you don’t understand a word of English, and don’t understand Western culture at all, the Sohu broadcast of “The Big Bang Theory” used excellent translations that takes colloquial English and turns it into equally relatable Chinese. In fact, on many of its shows, Sohu includes extra “header” notes to explain cultural references in notes written on top of the screen for review during a second watching.

Streaming of Western TV in China would reach such enviable heights as broadcasting the second half of the last season of “Breaking Bad” not 24 hours after the initial Western broadcast. However, “Breaking Bad” doesn’t relate to Chinese audiences the way “The Big Bang Theory” does, or its closest rival, the well-loved racist sitcom of “2 Broke Girls“.

Even though nothing can compete with the breasts of Kat Dennings, or her parading of them before her other talents, “The Big Bang Theory” still stands apart for the cultural impact it has had upon China. While other shows may be as popular or boast the same strengths as noted above, these shows don’t have a relatable and well-loved Sheldon, an insufferable character who is selfish and self-righteous, sympathized with by audiences the whole country over.

Sure, there have been other huge breakout hits in China—ambitious emigrants looking to bypass the system may have been enthralled by “Prison Break“, attention-seekers may sympathize with the plucky gang on “Glee“—but the end of this public broadcast on Sohu will hurt the country immeasurably.

There is still no direct reason given for why “The Big Bang Theory” was pulled from the air by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television; cancellations happen often, and often without warning. The cancellation comes during a government crackdown upon obscene and copyright infringement material.

We may speculate that this has to do with Sheldon’s recent character arc at having falsely discovered a new element that was independently verified by a Chinese team, upon which some jokes were lobbed at the Communist Party. (As it’s “The Big Bang Theory“, it’s not really worth retelling anyways.)

Party mouthpiece People’s Daily expressed that “If you don’t have Internet order, how can you have Internet freedom?” And that’s what “The Big Bang Theory” has become: the disharmonious pangs of laughter.

Last Saturday, April 26 was the day the laughter died—and to an audience so accustomed to artificial laugh tracks, canned laughter is as fresh as a new-born baby’s gurgle.

Photo: SciFi  Mania


Sun Yat-sen University opens nation’s first English Creative Writing Department

Posted: 03/21/2014 7:00 am

Sun Yat-sen University this week opened the first English-language Creative Writing department in mainland China, Nanfang Daily reports. Classes in Creative Writing will be optional for undergraduate students, according to the paper.

This year’s seniors have the option of making a piece of creative writing or a translation of one part of their dissertation. Post-graduates have the same option, and can also write an analysis of a translation of a piece of creative writing as their thesis.

The introduction is partly aimed at improving the creative thinking skills of its graduates, something that Chinese youngsters have long been said to lack. The camp also intends to invite established authors from around the world to hold “writing camps,” short courses on improving writing. This is how a lot of writers support themselves as the “writer’s life” is becoming more precarious than it has been for decades in the post-financial crisis world.

Can creative writing be taught? That question has been causing a stir in the British media in recent weeks after award-winning novelist and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (who teaches on one) said the courses were “a waste of time.” Saying that 99.9% of his students are not talented, Kureishi said that taking a Master’s degree in Creative Writing “would be madness.”

Other authors agreed, saying it was “the biggest con-job in academia” and it was all about lying to young people. But, Tim Clare, a graduate and teacher of such a course posted a riposte on his blog titled: “Can Creative Writing Be Taught? Not If Your Teacher’s a Prick.”

You can get a sense of the tone of the riposte by the second paragraph:

I try not to respond to manifestly stupid statements from authors, in the same way that I don’t respond to toothless medicine-swigging men’s bellowed warnings to pigeons that MI5 are poisoning our Irn Bru with flourine. There are just too many of them and engagement sometimes convinces these people that they are rational interlocutors in a debate, when really they are deserving of our pity and baffled compassion.

The debate continues to rage and is sure to go on doing so. Which side are you on?


Shenzhen in push to hire hundreds of new English teachers

Posted: 08/30/2013 9:32 am

A new government push to get native English teachers in 125 of Shenzhen’s public schools is good news for local expats, who will likely benefit from the increased employment opportunities as the plan continues to be phased in.

Shenzhen’s public schools are set to receive 175 new foreign teachers for the start of this academic year under the Center for Teaching and Learning in China (CTLC), according to a report by Shenzhen Daily on Wednesday.

A new five-year plan, released Monday, aims for all public schools in Nanshan District — and half of the city’s total public middle and primary schools — to offer English teaching from native speakers by 2018. The current crop of fresh recruits are TEFL-accredited and have two years teaching experience.

“CTLC is a U.S.-based organization that recruits, interviews, trains and supports teachers for public schools in China. CTLC is the first and largest nonprofit organization to work directly with Shenzhen to place foreign teachers in public schools. CTLC sent its first 13 foreign teachers to Shenzhen in 1998,” the Daily said in its report.

But it hasn’t been all good news for English teachers in Shenzhen this year. Many will remember that earlier this month The Nanfang picked up on a report that an unspecified number of undocumented English teachers were arrested in a crackdown in Nanshan District.

“At present, there are about 13,000 foreign residents living in Nanshan District, accounting for 42 percent of the expatriate population in the city. According to the Shenzhen Administration of Foreign Experts, about 11,000 foreigners with valid work permits were employed in Shenzhen last year, accounting for about 60 percent of the city’s foreign-worker population,” the Daily reported August 13.

In related news, an online startup by a former English teacher from New Zealand that teaches Chinese students via face-to-face Skype has received very strong investor backing, The New Zealand Herald reported Tuesday.

Perhaps some of the English teachers arrested in Nanshan would have been better off working for such kinds of online startups. Because, as The Nanfang shared in a report yesterday, you don’t want to get on the wrong side of the law in China.

Photo credit: ChinaSMACK


A legacy of Shenzhen’s Universiade that the city isn’t proud of

Posted: 06/9/2012 7:00 am

While one expects to see Chinglish on bathroom doors or restaurant menus, it can still be surprising when found in use by international companies or famous sporting events.

The Shenzhen Universiade has become the latest victim of a rather high-profile English gaffe.  The Universiade Cauldron Tower in Nanshan has displayed the terms “1th”, “2th” and “3th” since the games took place a year ago, which any native English speaker will tell you are incorrect.  In fact, many people have contacted the Shenzhen government and Universiade to point out the error, but their complaints have been dismissed.  Why?  Well, Shenzhen says those terms are a Universiade convention which have been used at all the games.

The International University Sports Federation (FISU), which organizes the Universiade, has finally chimed in to say, no, that’s not the case.  Indeed, those are English mistakes that have nothing to do with the Universiade itself.  This, according to a report in the Shenzhen Daily:

The Southern Metropolis Daily first reported the issue last August, quoting an unidentified person in charge of the Shenzhen Universiade’s opening and closing ceremonies as saying the incorrect numbers were, in fact, a convention of all Summer Universiades. The person told the paper that the style was used according to an FISU guidebook, and Chinese Foreign Ministry staff had been assured by FISU officials that the style had been used by Summer Universiades for the past 50 years.

But in an e-mail to Shenzhen Daily on Wednesday, FISU spokesman Christian Pierre acknowledged that the numbers are grammatical errors.

On FISU’s official Web site, the first, second and third Universiades are listed as “1st,” “2nd” and “3rd.”

The issue raises the question of whether there was a communication problem between Shenzhen Universiade organizers and FISU regarding the spelling, or if Shenzhen officials intentionally used a nonexistent “Universiade custom” as an excuse to cover up a simple mistake.

Our bet is on the coverup.


Mind your language! Guangzhou vows to clean up Chinglish

Posted: 04/20/2012 3:20 pm

Guangzhou’s government is demanding signage be translated into English alongside Chinese as the city becomes more global.  The key here is this: the signs must be translated accurately.  That means no Chinglish.

Officials are now pushing for suspect translations on public signs to be a thing of the past as new regulations come into effect on May 1.

That means signs like this one, which The Nanfang discovered at exit C of Baiyundadaobei Station on the Guangzhou Metro, need to be fixed:

Putting a stop to randy metro riders (c) Danny Lee

Li Yi, director of laws and regulations in the Guangzhou government, told China Daily:

“With the goal of developing Guangzhou into a modern, international metropolis, we recognize the need to set up bilingual public signs, especially in the public areas of hotels, scenic spots, airports, long-distance bus stations, passenger wharves, subway stations and urban roads.”

China Daily also reports the city’s government will fine administrators 30,000 yuan ($4,800) if signs are not corrected within two years.

One wonders if the government will now be hiring native English speakers to begin sorting through the city’s myriad of Chinglish signs.


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