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Which Language? Reality Check!

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Which "Variety" of The English Language is the Most "Useful" In Your ESL Career?
British English
 66%  [ 2 ]
American English
 33%  [ 1 ]
Canadian English
 0%  [ 0 ]
Australian English
 0%  [ 0 ]
(Other, e.g. Indian, Irish, New Zealand English, etc.)
 0%  [ 0 ]
Total Votes : 3

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Gerard Denaro

Joined: 08 Apr 2005
Posts: 11
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 4:32 am    Post subject: Which Language? Reality Check! Reply with quote

Back in Australia after two soul-searching experiences teaching in China in 2003 and 2004, I find myself being increasingly drawn back to the land of mystery and paradox. Having returned to teaching after a decade or so of doing other things, I cant help but think how different Australia and China are in size, climate, population, wealth, history and culture. And yet, as I sit on a park bench or at the beach admiring the blue skies, clear waters and fresh air of our fine country, I feel there is still a job to be done, friendships to be nurtured, dreams to be realized and places to see. I sometimes imagine that Australia is so far removed from the real world of poverty, pollution and over-population, as not to be a part of it.

It is a great tragedy that many kids throughout the world will never have access to clean water, decent healthcare or see the inside of a classroom. Not surprisingly, Australia's free health and education systems are the envy of the world, but I wonder whether our generous ideology isn't creating more problems than it solves. I feel a certain sadness to see how much Australians take for granted and how admired our lifestyle is by the people I meet in the third world. As a relief teacher I get to experience the best and worst of our local public high schools. Students who claim school life to be boring, may eventually find out the hard way that the dole or a dead-end job will be even more so. I am dismayed by the amount of time and talent wasted by so many students whom I tell, only get one chance to be the age they are now.

In several public schools, I have observed the tragedy of our youth who could be described as the "now" generation, unable to see past the next weekend or episode of reality TV, let alone that a wasted education could well mean a wasted life. Some think it's cool to play the fool, to waste their time and others in a sub-culture of mind-games, disrespect, peer pressure, truancy, bullying and drugs . Many claim drunkenness as their right-of-passage to adulthood. Illiteracy, poor employment prospects and social problems are some of the inevitable consequences. Not surprisingly, the exception would be schools containing immigrant Chinese, Koreans, Muslims, Africans etc, in whose cultures, education is a privilege not a right. So parents concerned about their children's future, vote with their feet, traveling long distances to find reputable schools where troublesome students are not welcome. The social problem of whole schools being abandoned to under-achieving, problem students and disillusioned teachers, is slowly becoming a reality. Based on their many experiences, colleagues who have taught in other western countries relate similar observations.

There seems to be an expectation not only amongst young Australians but the population in general, that society owes them a living and wonder why we don't thank them for being part of it. Political correctness, the courts and civil libertarians have made sure that discipline, accountability and respect for authority take second place to individual rights. Because of recent, publicized scandals, our Public Health system is in disarray and Education would seem to be on a similar course. Some countries may see a welfare system that offers disability pensions to those supposedly unable to work more than 25 hours a week as a pipe-dream, if not laughable. If only our dole recipients and welfare cheats could see old women in China who are forced to dig weeds on school ovals, just to survive because they have no family or social security network to fallback on. I wonder how our students would feel about an 8 hour day/6 day school week or our unionists about a "no work, no pay" clause.

With age hopefully comes wisdom, so I should try to be more tolerant with my fellow countrymen. Nevertheless, I find myself differentiating between those I would call small people leading small, egocentric lives and transformed people leading other-centered lives. Life for the former must be a constant procession of instant gratifications or it is dull and intolerable. My teaching philosophy maybe somewhat of itself, a paradox: without failure and the acceptance of it, there can be very little self-knowledge or progress on life's journey. Present day education in China may be similar to our Draconian past , but despite class sizes of 50 and up, the fear of corporal punishment, of failing public exams and having to repeat a grade, "baby boomers" of my era for the most part, actually enjoyed their schooling. Today, I would even go as far to say there is a fear of success rather than failure.

The greatest paradox a western person could imagine is what I experienced in the poorest of villages and schools in China where young children in tattered clothes and bare feet happily played in dusty and unsafe surroundings. Oblivious to my western values and living standards, women were selling their vegetables for a meager few dollars a day and men in old suits, sat on rusty tins or crates telling jokes and playing card games while trying to make ends meet, repairing bicycles, shoes and doing any number of other menial tasks. Never did we feel threatened walking down these same streets, unlike some of the outer suburbs of Brisbane and Sydney where crime and social problems abound. Sadly, there are suburbs in Oz containing 2 and even 3 generations of welfare recipients with little ability or incentive to take control of their own destiny. No wonder our education system (and police force) are fighting a losing battle.

My thoughts could be summarized in the words of a Chinese man I saw one night in a humble village restaurant. In his best suit, he was taking his family to dinner and I overheard him say "wo hen gaoxing, yinwei jintian gongzuo le souyi wo jia qu chi wanfan" which roughly translates as I am very happy today because I got work and am able to take my family out to dinner. How many Australians could ever find contentment, joy or humility in something most take for granted? Despite being a communist country undergoing a cultural and economic revolution, there seems to be a deep spirituality and passion for life that permeates the middle kingdom. China's imminent progression to super power status is in no small way due to a pervading thirst for and urgency about its education. In a nation of 200 million students, education is seen as the path to a meaningful future not only for the individual but the country as a whole. Most Australians will not want the reality check that come with a "real" world experience but (for me at least) the "road to Damascus" will continue.
Xianzai wo zai Qunsilan Daxue Xuexi Zhongwen san nianji

Last edited by Gerard Denaro on Mon Sep 12, 2005 6:40 am; edited 4 times in total
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Joined: 15 Jun 2005
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 8:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, this is the first post I have read, and it caused me to register so I could reply. I am currently doing a Masters and I am unsure of what I want to do when I am finished but like so many people I do not want to be trapped behind a desk...I had always thought about going to Japan but doing my MA (Diplomacy, Law and Global Change) and encountering China as an upcoming world power has made me switch to wanting to learn mandarin (which I will pick up as soon as this MA is over)...sometimes I get country, new language (it's not that I have not done it before-I am studying away from home, and I also spent a yr in a different language speaking country)...I know I can do it...but I guess...FEAR...always holds you back...your post has given me the courage to explore this very interesting country...

Thank you.
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Brenda Paul

Joined: 16 Jun 2005
Posts: 1
Location: Brisbane, Australia

PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2005 1:25 am    Post subject: China: a lesson in valuing education Reply with quote

This is a facsinating area for me, as I intend to travel to China in the next couple of years to experience it for myself. It is true that many Australian children do not appreciate the value of the education they receive and, sadly, end up with third rate jobs as a result. It is ironic that often only through lack of money and resources, when people have to really struggle to obtain, that they value a commodity, whether it be education, clothes, healthcare or even food on the table; as in the Chinese father so happy and proud he can take his family out for dinner after a rare day of paid work. It makes you think ... Question
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Gerard Denaro

Joined: 08 Apr 2005
Posts: 11
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2005 5:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to all those people who have given feedback via email or as footnotes to this post. It would seem the great irony of our much admired land and culture is that many Australians ignore or are oblivious to the dilemmas of the "real" world. Some stand on soap boxes demanding that children in detention centres be freed but how many would want one living next door? Despite space, wealth, freedom etc, I get the feeling that Aussies are basically unhappy- discontented with their own self-image, relationships, weight/ health problems, job, salary, & future.
Anger/frustration/ boredom are shown in many ways as road-rage, rudeness, intolerance, contempt etc, towards immigrants, other social classes, work ethics and authority. Formal religion has been replaced for the most part by obsessions with wealth accumulation, food, work, sport, drugs and other issues. Outside their own social group or without their name tags/healthcare cards, 4 wheel drives, designer-labeled clothes, many people experience an identity-crisis. People continue to work (and complain about it) well beyond retirement age with no idea how much money they really need or how they're going to spend it.
As Robin Williams said in one of his movies: All of life is a coming home, for all the restless hearts of the world. At sometime or other, I'e been as guilty as anyone for most of these issues but hopefully the wiser for having had an extended, third-world experience. My guess is that our deepest longings will never be fulfilled by the trivial pursuits of our contemporary western culture.
Xianzai wo zai Qunsilan Daxue Xuexi Zhongwen san nianji

Last edited by Gerard Denaro on Mon Sep 12, 2005 7:56 am; edited 2 times in total
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Joined: 30 Jul 2005
Posts: 1
Location: Colorado

PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2005 8:27 pm    Post subject: Thank you! Reply with quote

As an American citizen and college instructor I was deeply impacted by this thread. I recently resigned from my teaching position for several reasons, but then I realized after reading your post that it really was along the lines of apathy. Not that I am glad that Australia is experiencing issues that are relevant to the US, but it was interesting to see the similarities. My students chose to come to college and still had (have) those feelings and attitudes that you expressed in the students of your country. Developed country spoiled mind-set Question

Idea And isn't it interesting that there are books popping up all over the place on "poverty thinking" from people in such wealthy countries? Yet, the people of China that you speak of live in poverty and have "prosperity thinking"...feeling gratitude for work and the ability to express and extend that gratitude to those loved ones with a meal. A meal that his wife didn't have to prepare. A treat...A gift.

You write eloquently as you express the impression of the moment with incredible intensity. Thank you for sharing your experiences and your thoughts. Smile

Seeing the world, one person at a time!
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Gerard Denaro

Joined: 08 Apr 2005
Posts: 11
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2005 2:26 pm    Post subject: A further reflection on the journey: Reply with quote

In the twilight of my working life, everyday seems to have its surprises now. As a relief teacher, I recently thought I had a grade 6 class only to be told on arrival that I would be attached to the Special Ed' unit. So I spent a very different day with an amazing, but mildly autistic boy who at one point, wanted to inspect my molars and then asked me how I felt about being old. I was somewhat taken back, since I don't think of myself as being old. Seeing my reaction, he seemed a little surprised by what to him, was a perfectly reasonable question. So I explained that maybe I needed to have a think about it.

I guess one thing you tend to do as the years go by, is to ponder life in ways that are new. Most people might romanticize about their youth but I think it was a time for me that was actually better than I remember it. Psychologists might argue that at a school age, we weren't mature enough to face the big issues, it was a more a time for dreaming dreams, solving a piece of algebra and worrying how a new haircut looked. A good education taught me however, that with hard work and self-belief, anything is achieveable. The point is, unless you test your boundries (by failure if necessary), you never know what your true limits are.
The process of self-evaluation is probably best left to a time when we have finished "building the tower". There is no longer that preoccupation with wealth creation or our corporate image. Our dreams have most likely come and gone. On a personal level, I don't think there are too many things I've left undone or at least untried. Leaving the same employer after 30 odd years, I had to redefine the person I want to be. At this point in my life, there are changes that go with an ageing body ...the lack of energy, the football knees, the wrinkles, the failing eyesight, and the receding hair. I am somewhat taken back by that person that lives in the mirror, but it doesn't worry me anymore.

Moreover, I would never trade my memories of a large, loving family, a carefree but humble childhood, or my beautiful wife and adult kids for any other life but this one. At times, I've struggled to be more kind and less critical of myself and others. In doing so, I've become my own best friend refusing to chide myself for not being all that I could have been, for procrastinating on household chores, or for watching my favourite DVD, yet again. I have seen too much poverty living in the third world not to rejoice in the beauty of this fine country or the great freedom that is ours. Maybe as a result of these third-world adventures, I now feel more like a "foreigner" in my own country, trying to understand why each generation has to relearn the lessons of history.

Middle age, I've decided, is a gift to be embraced or rejected.

I may be guilty of being messy, of watching too much sport, for singing along to those tunes of the 60's and for weeping over a lost son. I know I have selective hearing and am somewhat forgetful. But then again, not all of life is worth remembering, is it? Sure, I've had my failures and disappointments. How can your heart not be broken when you lose a close friend or loved one or when a child suffers? Failure is what gives us strength, humility and self-knowledge. A heart never broken is cold and sterile and will never know the joy of imperfection and healing. Not withstanding an academic background, I now feel that knowledge and wisdom have little in common.

I am so blessed to have journeyed long enough to have grandchildren, and to see my youthful laughs forever etched into deepening grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died without being loved, without proper nutrition, healthcare or seeing the inside of a classroom. As one gets older, it is easy to find fault with the world and the blindness of people who share the same privileges. I reckon I've earned the right to be judgmental, to say "no," and mean it. I can say "yes" and mean it too.

It's also easier to be positive, not caring about what peers or insignificant people think or say. In the blink of an eye, they too, will be old. There was a time when I had all the answers, now I think I've earned the right to be wrong. I don't have to prove anything anymore, accept to ponder the question, ¡°what have I done to make this world a better place?¡± So, to answer the original question: Yes, I like being "old". I like the person I'm becoming and the challenges that lie ahead. I'm not going to be around forever, so I hope in some small way, I can continue to make a difference.

May your day be full of ordinary miracles!
Xianzai wo zai Qunsilan Daxue Xuexi Zhongwen san nianji

Last edited by Gerard Denaro on Wed Sep 14, 2005 7:31 am; edited 3 times in total
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Joined: 30 Jul 2005
Posts: 9
Location: Oman

PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2005 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a 79 year old, I can for sure relate to this post.
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Joined: 03 Mar 2006
Posts: 1
Location: Jiaxing, China

PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 3:03 pm    Post subject: Re: Western Culture needs a reality check Reply with quote

I agree Gerrard.

I am in China teaching at the moment and previously spent two years in Papua New Guinea as a volunteer with Australian Volunteers International, in perhaps its poorest province, Sandaun. One could say that Australians are apathetic to their good fortune. But who cares! Watching kids play with toys that they made out of old car parts in PNG, running about in bare feet, (probably break a leg if they wore thongs) and in ragged shirts, but with the greatest smiles you could ever come across.

Unfortunately, you have hit the nail on the head. We are such an apathetic lot that we are in jeopardy of losing the "Lucky Country". Well it is great to be teaching in a country or working in a country where you are welcome. And I'm with you.
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Joined: 14 Feb 2006
Posts: 46
Location: China / Chile

PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 6:47 am    Post subject: The Lucky Country ??? Reply with quote

Remember a national election campaign in the early 1990's
when a certain down-under politician stated something to
the effect that, instead of the "lucky" country , what Australia
needed to be was the "smart" country ?

Rolling Eyes
Si hoc legere scis, nimium erudtionis habes

Last edited by Wocca on Tue Aug 29, 2006 8:12 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 7:19 am    Post subject: Something for your time. Reply with quote

Very well thought out subject, however for some of the children that have no hope, it reflects their family circle influences on them. It is hard for them (at times) to realize that there are better things just waiting for them around the corner. They see all too much poverty within their lives and I am sure within the education system, they rarely are encouraged to challenge themselves. I'm from the UK, and my teachers gave up on me, way back in elementary school, and only had hopes that I would become a builder or some other type of manual worker (which isn't a bad life, if chosen by you), even when I left care (after being in there for all my childhood life) the last positive words they said to me was "we'll read about you in the paper in a couple of years time, laying dead in some alley-way".
However (it took time) but I manged to fund myself back into the education system and spent two years at higher Ed, and then 3 years on a BA degree course. I now teach (and have been for over three years) in Korea, I only teach within public schools, as I like the fact that I get to teach all types of children (from the rich to the poor). I give all that I have to all of my students (the good and the bad). Many people say that it's the youth, etc, but coming from the street life, I know that if the environment in which you live in is always negative, it is very hard to find a postive attitude within yourself. So, as teachers I think that we should all try and be a little more understanding of our students, and try to help them and guide them as best as we can.
Today is a new and different age for the youth of today = it is their culture, whether it be in China / Korea / Western culture, all kids do and will go through a great change in life, and depending on their surroundings, will always mirror those around them.
Here is a little something for your time.

Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about aging that you think in fractions.

"How old are you?" "I'm four and a half!" You're never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key.

You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead.

"How old are you?" "I'm gonna be 16!" You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16! And then the greatest day of your life . . . You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony . . YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!

But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away. Before you know it, you REACH 50

And your dreams are gone.

But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would!

So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60.

You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday!

You get into your 80's and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90's, you start going backwards; "I Was JUST 92."

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. "I'm 100 and a half!"

May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!


1. Throw out non essential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay "them!"

2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouchers pull you down.

3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain idle. "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." And the devil's name is Alzheimer's.

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6. The tears happen. Endure grief and move on. The only person, who is with us our entire life, is ourselves. Be ALIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love, whether it's family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your refuge.

8. Cherish your health: If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9 Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall, even to the next county; to a foreign country but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

But do share this with someone.

We all need to live life to its fullest each day!!

Have a wonderful day!!!!!!!
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Joined: 27 Aug 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2006 2:48 am    Post subject: Relief Teacher Reply with quote

Gerard, what is a relief teacher? Is it sort of like a volunteer teacher? I am very interested in doing what you do. I too have been to China and after reading your comments it reminded me of my trip and all the wonderful people I met. I have also been to other countries like Cambodia where the poverty level is so low, it does make you appreciate all what you have and it made me want to help out in ways that I can. Thanks again for your story.
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