This week I’ve been taken off to various Primary schools around the city as a ‘language coach’ for children taking part in a drama competition. Each arrival is an event – the last school, a shiny new building located past a corrugated iron street and down a dirt path had made a sign to welcome me. Then there’s a walk through the school with hundreds of children swarming around me and saying “foreigner!” in Chinese and “hello!” in English. Eventually I get to the gigantic lecture theatre. The primary school I went to (twenty or so years back) didn’t have one of these, but there were only 70 kids there. My job then is to watch a five-minute play and say what I think should be changed. Usually they are so good I have to search hard for a fault. There’s generally some minor grammar point in the script to change around, then their teacher always asks me about the intonation and I explain to them that English isn’t a tonal language. Usually at this point I get to go home. On Thursday I had a half-hour-long tea session with the headmistress of Number 17 Primary. She didn’t speak English but she had a good chat to the Chinese staff who had accompanied me. I sat there and discreetly made faces at the children staring at me through the windows.
The fact that I get paid for all this still seems a bit silly.

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