An Interview With Matt

Trip Start Feb 25, 2010
Trip End Feb 01, 2011

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Flag of China  , Tianjin Shi,
Monday, November 28, 2011

About a month ago a student in one my classes told me that she writes for the college newspaper, The Pearl River Mirror, and asked if I would agree to be interviewed for the next issue. More out of curiosity than anything else, I agreed, and so that lunch time she and her two friends met me to conduct the interview. They asked just five questions; questions that anyone who's lived in China will have been asked dozens of times, but they took it so seriously with their little recorder and notebooks out that I couldn't help but warm to them.

I'd forgotten all about the interview until the same student gave me a copy of the latest issue this week. The contents column on the front page reads "Page 3 - An Interview with MATT", and I was immediately struck by this, firstly because of the capitalisation of my name (as though they were shouting it), and secondly for the lack of further explanation as to who this Matt is. I would expect it to read "An interview with our foreign teacher Matt" or something similar, but no. Apparently I'm so famous I don't need an introduction. Shit, I don't even need a surname, which means I've finally joined the likes of Sting, Prince, Jesus, and Moses in the league of mononominal uber stars.

When I read the interview I was impressed by the accuracy with with they managed to transcribe my recording, save for a few inevitable mistakes and dodgy interpretations of what I actually said. They even went to the trouble of translating each of my answers into Chinese. Here's how the interview reads (errors included):


Matt is a foreign teacher in our school, and his classes are very popular among students. We feel so glad to have the opportunity to interview him.

Q: Where do you come from? Could you talk about your hometown?
A: I'm from England. The name of my hometown is Canterbury. It is in the southeast of England and it's very close to London. It's a very small town which has a population of just over 100,000. Even though, I Iove it, because it's beautiful and very interesting.

Q: Why did you come to China?
A: I came to China because I wanted to do something new. I contantly try to challenege myself, because I think it's the best way to keep strong and improve myself exactly.

Q: What do you think about China?
A: Oh...well, it's a difficult question. I think I still don't understand China very much, even though I have lived here for one and a half year. There is still a lot that I don't know and understand. It is so different and complicated. But I  thinkit's one of the things that have attracted me to work in China. It's very layered and difficult to understand, which is why I like it. Absolutely, many Chinese people have been very friendly and very helpful. I would not still be here without them. They had made my time here much more enjoyable.

Q: What's the living manner of England juniors?
A: I think in many ways they are quite similar to the Chinese youth. But one of the differences is that the most people do not live on the university campus when they are junior. At that time, in England, you can live on the campus or live outside in your own house which creates a very different lifestyle. It gives you more freedom in how late you can come back and what you can do in your home.

Q: What do you think is the biggest difference between English classes and Chinese classes?
A: Chinese classes are generally much bigger than English classes. When I was in university, there were just fifteen or twenty students in the class. Not only that but also the type of lesson is very different. The students gather to discuss the topic. The teacher does not stand in the front of the classroom and tell things. Teachers are there to lead the discussion, and they help stimulate the discussion; they do not teach but guide. Therefore most of the work is still done by students themselves in university in England. You have to motivate yourself and finish your own work because nobody will tell you what you should do. You must do it by yourself, which I think is the biggest difference.

It's easy to make fun of the The Pearl River Mirror, especially when it starts its Maroon 5 review with "Nowadays if someone hasn't heard of maroon 5, he or she must be a freak or someone out of date either." But I defy anyone to read it and not be touched by it. Pearl River College is right in the middle of nowwhere (or the middle of Tianjin and Beijing to be precise). It's campus offers no form of entertainment whatsoever, not even a decent place to eat, and there is nothing surrounding it for miles around. Therefore the students who go there don't have much to get excited about (hence someone like me can become a celebrity), and I think the fact that these girls channel their enthusiasm for English in such a positive manner is truly endearing.
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larlar1286 on

Oh my god, so cute. I love the sentence about Maroon 5, and I love the Jesus reference.

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