Eating Out with Chinese Friends

When I lived in China as an English teacher, I quickly learned that eating out with friends is quite a social event. And usually so cheap compared to eating out at a Western restaurant! Let me share some of the most memorable dinner dates I have shared with my Chinese friends.

Eating Out – a roast pig

One Month Celebration for Baby

One of my coworkers, who is originally from England, celebrated the one month birthday of his baby girl, Josephine. It is a Chinese tradition that the mother and baby stay at home for an entire month, then they have a large celebration for everyone to meet the baby. This celebration was held in an upstairs banquet area of a large restaurant and the food and company was amazing. The roast pig was brought out for everyone to eat the crispy skin, and then returned later with all the meat cut up into small pieces on a platter ready to eat.

Crispy Roast Pig
Everyone relaxed after a great feast.

Eating Out – the pub with my coworkers

Before I returned home, I celebrated my birthday in the largest Irish style pub in Guangzhou, called McCawley’s. This pub was also conveniently located on the ground floor of my apartment building. This was just an impromptu meeting after work of my boss and 3 of my fellow teachers. There is an unhurried atmosphere to eating in China, whether it’s Western style restaurants or a Chinese restaurant. We ate, had a drink or two, and just relaxed to enjoy each other’s company.

Miss you guys!
Burger and fries.

Eating Out – traditional Chinese dinner

I think my favorite kind of meal was the traditional Chinese dinner where platters are brought out until the table is covered with delicious food. I have gone to this kind of dinner for a team meeting, to celebrate a friend’s wedding, and just for an everyday group dinner. I have seen whole fish covered in spicy peppers and sauce, strange vegetables I have never eaten before, and some dishes of strange body parts that I refused to eat! It’s all an adventure, so I have tried frog’s legs, intestines, strange cockles, and weird tasting meat and vegetable mixtures.

Team Building Dinner
Spicy Fish
Josephine and Kaki enjoying their meal and some conversation.

Eating out in China was definitely one of my most favorite activities when I lived there. I miss it since I returned home to the United States. Perhaps I just need to find a new restaurant with plenty of dishes to try, and a relaxed atmosphere so I can enjoy time with my company.

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Improve Your TOEFL Listening Skills Part 1

Tips for the TOEFL Exam

Beats headphones on a bright blue background with a white pencil.
Always be ready to listen.

Listening is one of the four parts of the TOEFL exam and is considered an integrated skill. This means that after you listen to a passage on the exam, you must then read and answer questions, write an answer, or speak an answer or opinion out loud. The skill to improving your listening abilities is to practice often and to use the integrated actions.

The listening section tests your understanding of spoken English in an academic setting, which includes university lectures and conversations. The TOEFL Guide Book states that listening is done for basic comprehension, for practical understanding, and for connecting and synthesizing information. That means you listen to see how all the information is related and understanding the meaning.

The test provides academic lectures and longer conversations in which the speech is at a natural speed. The exam usually offers 4-6 lectures, each about 3-5 minutes long, and 2-3 short conversations. The academic lectures usually include a professor speaking, a lecture and then a professor and student speaking, and then conversations between people in a college setting. These conversations deal with a typical student issue, such as course requirements, grades, registering for a class, or dealing with campus life. Notes can be taken during the lectures or conversations, but they are collected at the end of the exam and destroyed.

Four Question Formats

There are four question types in the Listening section.
 
1. multiple choice (there is only 1 correct answer)
2. multiple choice with more than one answer (1 and 2, or 1, 2, and 4)
3. place events or steps in order
4. matching objects or text with categories in a chart

The multiple choice questions require you to listen for tone of voice and other cues to try and determine how the speaker feels about the specific topic. Some questions replay a portion of the discussion, and then you answer the question after hearing it repeated.

Listening to English frequently, especially academic materials, is the best way to improve your listening skills for the TOEFL exam. Remember, the speech is at a normal speed. 

Some ways to improve your listening ability is to:
–watch movies or television, both with and then without subtitles
–listen to the radio or other English music you have downloaded
–download a podcast on your phone to listen while commuting 
–just listen to English conversations around you
These simple tips will all help you get better at this important skill of listening for comprehension.

Visit a bookstore or your library to find CDs and other audio of lectures and college level presentations. You can also search the internet for listening materials. Some good resources are:
1. www.npr.org
2. www.bbc.co.uk/radio
3. www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish
4. www.ets.org/toeflpractice (from the TOEFL creators)

More information and tips coming in a future post. Stay tuned!