10 Must have apps for life in China

1.       Wechat


Wechat started life as a chat app (hence the name) but soon evolved into something much bigger. Most of the population from your students to their Grandparents have a wechat account and it’s the best way to stay in touch with people. It also has a wallet function, which you can use to buy almost anything and to send money to your friends. Alongside all of this, you can use it to book tickets, play games with your friends, follow the news and almost anything you can imagine.

Alternative e-wallet: Alipay

2.       Didi


Didi is the ride sharing company that acquired Uber in China and is a must for getting around especially after the buses and subways stop for the night. With Didi you can book official city taxis, uber-style drivers and also ride sharing in cars heading the same direction as you. They also offer generous vouchers for new users and super users offering money off rides.


3.       Mobike / Ofo

Sticking to the transport theme, Mobike and Ofo are China’s 2 biggest bike sharing apps. Chinese sidewalks are filled with Mobike and Ofo bikes and these are often the fastest way to get around short distances. Just download the app, sign up for an account (with your passport), link your wechat or alipay, pay a small deposit and you’re ready to go. At the time of writing, a 3 month pass on Mobike cost 5RMB.


4.       大众点评 (Da zhong dian ping)

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This app requires you to know some basic chinese but once you can navigate it, it’s invaluable. This is the Chinese Yelp. You can find reviews with pictures of everything to do in your city. If you want to find out where to get the best noodles in your area just type in 面条 to see a list of noodle restaurants ranked by popularity. They also offer the occasional free meal to users who rate 4 or more places a month.




5.       饿了吗  (e le ma?) or 美团 (Mei tuan)

These are the most popular take out apps in China and they deliver meals to your door in about 45 minutes. You’ll see 饿了吗 delivery people out on their electric bikes at all hours of the day in all-weather dodging in and out of traffic to get your food to you warm. Modern-day heroes.



6.       微博 (Weibo)


Weibo is one of the most popular Chinese social media sites and is where you’ll get all the latest gossip, news you don’t see on the central TV stations and all the Chinese memes. You’ll get more out of it once you can read a little Chinese but ask your Chinese friends and colleagues to follow you on Weibo and send you all their funny panda videos.


7.       Pleco and Memrise

Pleco is the go to Chinese dictionary and one most favoured among the Chinese learning community. The free 'lite' version works perfectly for everyday use but they also offer a ton of add-ons for the serious Chinese learner.

Memrise is, from my perspective, the best app for learning Chinese characters. Built by memory experts, they offer a unique learn, grow and review model forcing you to stay on top of your characters. They also make good use of score boards so you and your friends can compete to see who are ‘growing’ the most words.

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8.       QQ Music

This is China’s biggest music app – comparable to Spotify. It has almost everything bar some really obscure bands. You can ‘like’ songs and albums; ‘follow’ artists and create your own playlists. You can also link it to your Nike running app.



9.       京东 (Jing Dong) or 淘宝 (Tao Bao)

Don’t blame me but say goodbye to your salary. Jingdong and taobao are China’s biggest shopping apps and you can find almost anything in their marketplaces from cute panda hats all the way through to private jets. Once you’ve linked your wechat/alipay to these apps you can order things at the click of a button. I even order my daily groceries on JingDong.


10.   高德地图 (Gao De Di Tu)

This is a map app optimized to work in China. It’ll show you where to get the bus and where to get off, help you navigate the subway system and even show you when to take a mobike or when to just walk it.


Think we've missed any? Add a comment below!

Life Club Plus, and Then Some… - Neil

At EF we want to afford children the opportunities to use their English as much as possible. We have the Efekta LEARN, TRY, APPLY system, with APPLY predominantly taking the form of a Life Club.

Life Clubs can be a great way for children, and teachers, to experiment with and explore English that they might not learn in class and could result in some incidental learning on both parts.

The children are exposed to more English, and more natural English at that, than they might be in the classroom.


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As someone who has travelled a bit, and lived in a few countries, I can tell you from experience that there is a lot to learn in the classroom; it is an excellent environment to work in a controlled, safe space and explore the language with positive feedback from your peers and teacher. But nothing can really prepare you for foreign language use in the real world, and there has been many an occaison where I have found myself, in spite of decades of foreign language study, unable to express what I what. You don’t realise that you don’t know the vocab for ‘short back and sides, grade 3’ until you sit in a barber’s chair in France and end up having to use all the vocabulary and grammar that is in your arsenal to work your way the long way around to getting a haircut. Or worse, even though you have stared at your dictionary for 10 minutes to find the right phrase, the Russian barber plonks you in his chair and starts hacking away before you have the chance to open your mouth and so you just prattle on about Dostoyevsky. But enough about me….

The teachers at CD5 have worked hard on creating ways to support our children’s learning and give them new options to engage with language outside the classroom. As a result, we have devised Speaking Club and Reading Club. These Life Club Plus(es) aim to work on the skills that children may be lacking and give them extra help, or on the flipside, offer them more chance to practice since they may not have the option to speak as much as they want: all of us know one or two chatterboxes in the class who would just love to talk the birds down from the trees.

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Reading Club, which has been organised by Neil and Kate, enabled us to work with children who are passionate about reading, engaged with the texts, and also those who want a little more time dedicated specifically to reading. As there is so much for us to do in two hours, we don’t always have the opportunity to develop this skill which enables children to autonomously language learn outside the classroom. Speaking from experience, I have read many a Russian novel whilst on the metro to work, or sat in a park with a copy of Bei Dao and the other Misty Poets, and being exposed to the language, even if I don’t totally understand it, means that I can learn more and faster.

In Reading Club we can provide children with more difficult texts than they would normally read, and create engaging topic specific lessons, for example ‘Going to the Cinema’ or ‘Life in Space’, along with fomenting Book Flooding and just a general enjoyment of reading. Working with research into Second Language Acquisition and Reading Skills we aim to encourage ‘reading for pleasure’ as I have found it is one of the greatest ways to expose oneself to the language when they are not always able to engage with native speakers and practice. Subsequently we have devised MPW, but more on that another time…

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At the same time, Becky and Zoey, two of our amazing local teachers, have run a Spelling Compeititon, along with coordinating the Monthly Show and Speaking Workout video, it’s a wonder they have any time, to work on yet ANOTHER language skill, writing. It was run as part of out Phonics Summer Course, and as can be seen above we had lots of proud parents and happy children for whom a dictation wasn’t entirely a dreaded experience.

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We would also like to extend a special thanks to Hanna, a new foreign teacher and trained doctor, who came in during her free time to help us run another Speaking Club, this time working with medical terminology and learning the parts of the body. They all had a great time checking each other’s temperatures, using tongue depressers a.k.a lollipop sticks, bandaging each other up like mummies, and likely just being the monkeys that they can be. But using English that they wouldn’t otherwise be learning in the classroom and nattering away.


CD7 Teacher Survey- Emily Milne

Ten teachers were set an immense task; a task that will sort the teachers from the teenagers; one that will give the most enlightened amongst you nightmares. Their task? Complete a survey about themselves! The horror!!

Because of the nature of the survey all teachers identities are anonymous.

How long have you been working with EF Chengdu?

Ten teachers were set an immense task; a task that will sort the teachers from the teenagers; one that will give the most enlightened amongst you nightmares. Their task? Complete a survey about themselves! The horror!!

Because of the nature of the survey all teachers identities are anonymous.

How long have you been working with EF Chengdu?

T 1. Almost 2 years

T 2. 5 years for me

T 3. This is my first month.

T 4. 3 months.

T 5. 5 months

T 6. Just over 16 months

T 7. It's my first month

T 8. Same here; first month

T 9. 1 year and 8 months

T 10. Almost 1 year

Did you teach before joining EF Chengdu? If so how long and where?

T 2. I was at another center in Wuhan, another province of China.

T 3. No this is my first school.

T 4. No I didn't teach but I worked at Disney so was really interested in working with young kids.

T 6. No I've only worked in bars or shops before.

T 8. I haven't taught before so this is my first school.

Why did you choose EF Chengdu?

T 1. To work with small children

T 2.  It’s the best and fastest EF franchise in China, offering many opportunities for professional development.

T 3.  It's a well-established English Language Center in China where I thought I could make a strong contribution to and develop my skills as a T.

T 4. It has lots of chances to develop my career.

What do you like about working at CD7?

T 7. The atmosphere is great.

T 8. The colleagues are really nice.

T 9. The students are really fun to teach.

T 10. There is a great environment in the school.

What level is your favourite to teach?

T 7. I haven't taught a class yet but SSC is really great to observe.

T 1. This is something that is constantly changing for me, it use to be Frontrunner and Trailblazers, but currently I’m enjoying teaching the Small Stars again.

T 2. SSB and High Level FR

T 5. SSB and HFD

What do you like about Chengdu?

T 5. The mix of local and international food and people.

T 3. It has a really laid back vibe.

T 7. I find it's such a vibrant city.

T 9. The food!!

Write a funny story that happened in one of your classes.

T 6. A kid laughed so hard he farted.

T 10. During my July Storyteller class, we were learning Yankee Doodle. I only had four students in class and one of them was named Tony. There’s a line in the song that goes “riding on a pony” and the whole class just thought it was hilarious that pony sounded like Tony. So every time I played the song and it said “pony”, the entire class would crack up and just sing “Tony, Tony, Tony.” Every remaining class I taught, the students would request I put Yankee Doodle on repeat during breaks, and they would sing it and not stop laughing.

What has been your biggest challenge in China/ EF and how did you overcome it?

T 1. classroom management; I asked other Ts at CD7 for advice and help.

T 7. confidence in the classroom; Like T 1, I asked other Ts and they really helped me.

What do you wish you knew before coming to EF?

T1. I wished I knew how difficult it would be for them to make bigger uniforms.

T6. More info about ESL

T2. Chinese!!

If you won 1 million kuai what would you do?

T1. I would give half to my family and take my fiancé and I on a round the world trip. Then I’d buy a sports car!

T2. KTV!!

T3. Go on permanent vacation. 

T4. I would achieve world peace!

T5. Make it rain.

T6. I’d travel the world.

T7. Buy my own plane.

T8. Organise a huge EF team building activity.

T9. Go to every Comic-Con in the world!

T10. Lifetime supply of noodles!

Traveling on Your Days off- Shannon Naude

One of the things most EF teachers have in common (other than the fact that we all teach English) is the want to travel. We all picture holidays in Thailand, Bali, Vietnam, Beijing, Hong Kong and the list goes on – we forget about all the places there are to see in and around Chengdu; places you can visit on your days off, which means you can save your leave for all those picture-perfect holidays you’ve been imagining since the day you found out you were coming to China.

·         Here is a list of places you can visit in Chengdu on your days off.

Chengdu Panda Research Base

Chengdu is the place to be if you love pandas! It’s one of the first things that comes up when you Google Chengdu. It’s a very easy half-day trip and it doesn’t cost much either! It’s a good idea to get there early because the pandas are most active in the morning.

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How to get there?

Take the Metro Line 3 (pink line) to ‘Panda Avenue’

Follow the signs out of the station for the panda base

There are always rows of buses outside the station waiting to take people to the base – the yellow buses cost ¥60 and include your entrance ticket to the base.


Happy Valley is the theme park in Chengdu. It has a few rollercoasters, a bunch of spinning rides and a water park with some really cool water slides.

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Tianfu square is a must-see in Chengdu as this square is the ‘symbol of Chengdu.’ There are musical fountains on the square and a statue of Chairman Mao. There are also a bunch of museums surrounding the square: Sichuan Science and Technology Museum, Sichuan Art Gallery, Chengdu Museum, Imperial Mosque, Jincheng Art Palace.

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How to get there?

You can take Metro Line 1 (Purple Line) or Metro Line 2 (Orange Line) to Tianfu Square.



Chunxi Road Pedestrian Street is a cool place to wonder around, across the street is Tai Koo Li which has a lot of restaurants that serve Western food.

IFS is a mall in Chunxi Road with designer brand clothing stores as well as your well-known Western shops like H&M and Zara. The mall also has an ice rink and tenpin bowling.


How to get there?

You can take Metro Line 2 (Orange Line) or Metro Line 3 (Pink Line) to Chunxi Road.



The Wide & Narrow Alleys are a popular tourist destination in Chengdu; there are restaurants, pubs, teahouses and loads of small souvenir shops. These alleys were renovated but date back to Qing Dynasty and so they give you an idea of what ancient city alleys looked like.

It’s a nice place to wonder around and explore all the little shops along the streets.


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How to get there?

Take Metro Line 4 (Green Line) to Wide and Narrow Alleys.



Jinsha Site Museum is a world-renowned archaeological dig site which was happened upon accidentally during real estate construction in 2001. It has been turned into a museum with 4 parts to it – Relics Hall, Exhibition Hall, Cultural Heritage Protection Center and an Ecological Garden.

This site dates back to 12th-7th century B.C. and is the site where the ornament that has become the symbol of Chengdu was unearthed: “The Sun and Immortal Bird”


How to get there?

Take Metro Line 2 (Orange Line) to Yipintianxia Station – Exit B.



The New Century Global Centre is the world’s largest building in terms of its floor area.

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How to get there?

Take Metro Line 1 (Purple Line) to Jincheng Plaza – Exit E1.



The Thatched Cottage of Du Fu was the home of the famous poet, Du Fu (duh), over a thousand years ago. He was alive during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The Thatched Cottage of Du Fu is now made up of the Fan’an Temple in the east and the Plum Garden in the west.

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How to get there?

Take bus 19, 35, 58, 82, 151, 165, 170, 309, 319, 1024 or 1031, and get off at Du Fu Cao Tang station. 

Take Metro Line 4 (Green Line) to Caotang Road North.

CD2 and CD5 say goodbye to Summer Course:

Summer Course is now over, and it has taken everyone a few weeks to recover and repair. But holidays are just around the corner with National Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Summer Course was an intense period of teaching, where at some schools we were in the office 9-9 trying and testing out a range of new ideas and activities to help our children learn phonics, instill confidence, and use language creatively. It was also a time for napping between lessons and lesson planning as we needed time to recoup and recover if we were teaching for 7 hours a day. But whilst CD5 had been converted into a jungle with a wide array of flowers bought for one another as Ghost gifts, and we now had every single animal pillow that you can possibly buy from the Miniso – many a teacher’s favourite store - downstairs, teachers at CD2 were on the hunt for adventure and exploring the school – something to break up the lesson planning and teaching, by stretching their legs. They found… a secret door (which in fact isn’t that secret as it sticks out against the white paint...)

What is behind the secret door you ask? Narnia? Tom Thunder and King Scissors at Candy Mountain? A brick wall? Nope. A flight of stairs which leads up to CD2’s rooftop. A nice open space to relax surrounded by wonderful views of the high-rise flats in Tongzilin.

CD5 and CD2 have strong ties for a host of reasons, and so a Barbecue/BBQ/Braai was planned which took a few weeks to coordinate because Summer Course is a time when teachers are running left, right, and centre, and then just need to collapse into their office chair for five minutes to recuperate. So it was down to the wonderful Nadine who managed to pull off such a spectacular barbecue and get together.

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No sooner had we stepped through the door, when we were roped in to cutting, peeling, and chopping all the vegetables for the BBQ because last night's had been left in buckets to preserve them, and…ironically…had rotted. But like a well oiled machine, in the kitchen and upstairs on the roof, and the CD5 and CD2 teams managed to pull it off in style converting a dull, dusty, open space into a colourful haven full of fairylights. With everyone zipping around like fairies to clog up their wechat feeds with ‘life is beautiful’ collages.
Great to see schools working hard, and playing hard together!

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Goodbye to Old Friends and Hello to New Ones!

As happens in all walks of life, people come and go, they cross our paths, touch our lives, and then go on to pastures new. 

Sadly, in the past few months Daniel, Viola, and Alice have moved on to new plans and projects. For example, Daniel is returning to the UK to teach refugees English, so EF has helped him lay the groundwork for his new job, and he has transferred much of what he learnt and taught here elsewhere to help people in their new lives.

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A KTV and dinner send off was what was, obviously, required for one of our dearest friends who helped mentor many a teacher, coordinate a summer course, run a hub training and so much more.

In recent weeks, we have taken on a few new teachers: Kate and Sally who were thrown in the deep end teaching Summer Course within their first few weeks, but took to it like ducks to water. And this week, Emlyn has arrived from Scotland, so what else is there to do to when someone arrives in Chengdu but to introduce them to Sichuan hot pot?

Great dinner, great time, great friends, great team!

As Shirley said, ‘Team Building, it’s all about the team!’

Once again, we have team building! This time, however, it was a company-wide team building that meant we got to work alongside our friends and colleagues from other schools, many of whom we might never meet, and with whom we might not socialize outside of the classroom (Commune, la Cave and Beer Nest, I’m looking at you).

Inevitably, company-wide team building means a nice early morning start, everyone’s favourite, and the weather certainly didn’t look promising from the outside, with some of the teachers optimistically wearing shorts, and then 20 minutes later wondering whether it was the right choice. Nonetheless, unlike the last team-building out at Dujiangyan, the weather managed to hold out for most of the day, meaning that the staff could profit from the Great Outdoors. A bunch of us met up in Tongzilin, and a few metro stops later arrived at the Southwest Financial University metro stop and grabbed some Ofos to the meeting point at the Metro down the road. It's always a bit risky, but cycling in convoy, as a team, is always fun. Have a conversation with someone, drop back to chat with another friend, and then swerve to avoid a rogue car that has skipped a traffic light etc.


We milled around for about half an hour whilst we were assigned the buses on which we would be travelling to Dujiangyan, with some staff running to Metro for a hearty breakfast of miscellaneous pastries and Haribo is just what the doctor ordered for a long day of team building. After about an hour long coach journey, during which many of us grabbed the shut eye that we so dearly wanted and would normally have had on any other day.

After crossing a rickety bridge, where many of the staff feared falling into the… stream, we set up camp and pounced on the feast that had been set out for us.

It was almost handbags at dawn as various staff from each school all ran around trying to grab the best of the bounty for our 烧烤 (BBQ), and the female staff soon discovered that their loo was inhabited by a monstrous spider, but undeterred, many ventured in.

Shortly after filling their boots, and for some perhaps a bit too much, the activities commenced! A tightrope act, catching fish with your bare hands, paddling along the stream (and desperately trying not to sink), archery (which had a huge queue), and the one that everyone was fighting over, a sort of paintball with soft pellets which certainly left me with many a bruise. But the main thing was that it was fun (even if my whole team did leave me on my tod in the middle of the battlefield…).

The last act of the day, for some, was tea leaf picking up in the hills. A great chance to grab some fresh air, learn something new about tea, pick your own leaves which makes drinking it all the more satisfying, and also just relaxing on the veranda with cups of fresh, green tea chatting away and admiring the rolling tea leaf plantations.

Whilst some finished their day picking leaves, others headed to Beer Nest in Tongzilin where Daniel held a quiz for us with some cleverly titled categories, and some very rogue questions (I certainly shan’t be forgetting the capital of Cyprus any time soon).  All in all, a good and memorable day, and certainly something that’ll stop the parents carrying out the Spanish Inquisition on those of us that have only been in China for half a year or so, as you could just dump a mass of photos on them to keep them sated.

5 Years at EF China!

Hi, my name is Dave and I have been living and working in China exactly 5 years this week. The last 5 years have been the best 5 years of my life so far. I have met some extraordinary people and had the best adventures of my life being in China.

I graduated from The Robert Gordon University in Scotland with a 2nd class honours degree in Architectural Technology. Soon after working in a Jewish community care home, I headed to Canada to seek my dream job as an Architect. I gained employment at a prestigious firm in Vancouver, working 60+ hours a week for reasonably good money. I thought this was happiness. However, in hindsight, I was always at work and didn’t get to do many fun things while I was in Canada. My expat friends would always invite me out to go hiking or traveling but I always had to turn them down because of tough deadlines at work. 

Spreading the Scottish Spirit in Canada.

Spreading the Scottish Spirit in Canada.

My world came crashing down when I received a letter from the Canadian government stating that my work visa had expired and I had to leave the country or I would be prosecuted. Avoiding a black mark on my passport, I wound up my Canadian life and jumped on a plane back to Scotland within a week.

When I got home, I felt dazed as I had come off a high pressure job with a fast paced lifestyle into the quiet sleepy costal town I was raised in. I looked at my options and wanted to get back into Architecture as soon as possible. I read that China’s economy was booming and they were building things faster than they could design them, so I contacted many Architecture firms there. They told me that I needed to speak a basic level of Chinese which I couldn’t at the time. I then thought to myself, I could teach English for a year while I learn Chinese and then I can apply for Architectural jobs.

Soon after applying with teach-english-in-china.co.uk I was given an interview and an offer from EF Wuhan. I had never heard of Wuhan before, so my friend and I researched what kind of city it was. I read it was famous for its “hot dry noodle” and hot weather.

I landed in Wuhan China at 8pm on July 4th 2012. There was definitely culture shock but I was surrounded by people who had been through it all before and were really helpful to me.

Within three months of teaching I knew this was what I truly wanted to do over Architecture. The kids were so much fun to work with. Even if my energy was down they’d always make me laugh and brighten me up. Words can’t describe the feeling of watching them develop and get better at English because of my teaching. It really is the most amazing way to leave your mark on the world.

Last time with one of my classes before moving to Chengdu.

Last time with one of my classes before moving to Chengdu.

My first year was probably the most challenging year but also the most fun. It was difficult getting to know a brand new job and a different culture, however I was out every weekend enjoying adventures and experiencing new things. EF Wuhan is a really supportive company which prides itself on developing and taking care of its staff.

After every week was over I would head back to my apartment to freshen up and then head out with my work mates for food and a few drinks. We never knew where the night would take us. We would always end up meeting other expats and going with them to house parties and other bars. Meeting so many different people from different places really made me understand the importance of listening to others and respecting their opinion of the world. I continue to learn from other nationalities around the world even to this day.

On a motor biking trip in Yangshuo with an American, a Dane and an Englishman.

On a motor biking trip in Yangshuo with an American, a Dane and an Englishman.

During the two and half years I was in Wuhan I met and fell in love with my now fiancé Nikka. She’s from the Philippines and worked in a different centre at EF Wuhan. We traveled all over China and Southeast Asia together.

Nikka and I camel trekking through the Gobi Desert.

Nikka and I camel trekking through the Gobi Desert.

After two and half years at EF Wuhan we wanted to move as we had hit the ceiling of development at our centres and had experienced everything we could from Wuhan. Fortunately EF is a large company so we were able to transfer to EF Chengdu very easily.

We both transferred in as senior teachers and within 10 months I had been promoted to Director of Studies in a brand new centre where I am today. 6 months after I was promoted, Nikka was also promoted to Director of Studies. This year I won the Star Director of Studies award in the city which made me very proud.

Everyday living in China is a blessing to us. We live a great lifestyle. We both work 40 hours a week while living a higher standard of what I lived in Canada and the UK. We are currently saving for our wedding on November 18th, and we recently signed new contracts to stay out here longer.

Moving to China was the best thing I have ever done with my life. If you are reading this and you want a change, get in touch with EF Chengdu right now.

-David Muir

This is me with my current team in Chengdu.

This is me with my current team in Chengdu.

Why are you here? My Dream Job

Why are you here? 

It’s been your dream to be a teacher. You love learning and children. You wanted to travel. You have loans you need to pay off, and this was a good opportunity to become debt free. You thought you could get a long summer vacation. 

We all have different reasons for being here and no one reason is any more valid than the next. However, has it always been your dream to be a teacher? Think back to what you wanted to be in middle school and high school. Those big dreams to be a lawyer or a doctor. Or perhaps you had sillier ideas about the ideal career as a child. Maybe, like me, you dreamed to be a fairy or a princess or a wolf. 

In my Trailblazers 3 class we are currently on the unit about jobs, and I asked my students to write about their dream job. Below is an answer I received from my student Corine. I found it inspiring and it reminded me that at one point I had wanted to be a photographer, so, next week I am going to buy a camera and start shooting again. I hope that Corine’s words can spark an old flame in other reader’s hearts too. Enjoy! Thank you again, Corine, for the thought you put into your answer. 

My Dream Job 

There are too many kind of jobs the world, such as a writer, actor, doctor, nurse…but different people choose different jobs as their ideal careers. This is because everyone has their own interest. In the future I want to be a doctor because doctors can help sick people and make them healthy and happy. However, many people think the hospital is dirty and smells of disinfectant. Also, it's easy for doctors to become ill. Maybe when I am a doctor I won’t mind it. Why? Because I love this job very much. I can prescribe medication for the patients. I believe my dream will come true one day. To be a doctor is good for me, and I will try my best to help sick people. If one day my medical skills are very good I might be able to teach abroad. Never, never give up. 

“Why are you here?” written by Angelica 

“My Dream Job” written by Corine



3F Mix City,No.8,Shuangqing Rd,Chenghua District 


Class Management - Class SSB 54- Donovan Goosen

Report: I have been tasked with undertaking the reform and management of a difficult and poorly behaved class over the previous three months, turning around their behavior as well as improving the lagging test results of the entire class. This is my journey with SSB 54.

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It is axiomatic to say this would not be an easy process, but I strongly believed consistency was the key to solving this problem. I HAD a trouble class, now it's my star class, full of capricious and difficult students infamous throughout the staff. SSB 54 had more than six different teachers, each absquatulating over a period of three months, also leading to mismanagement and confusion. The school did try to amend this issue by providing extra ACH to focus specifically on classroom management and behaviors. This failed to appease anger and rancor among parents as the students continued to be loud, disruptive and struggled with their academic progress. I approached this problem in a number of ways, rewarding the students consistently in every class for the smallest examples of good behavior. Positively reinforcing them, if they’ve done something good they received a high ten, if they answered correctly I gave them a low five.

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Students became more intrinsically focused on getting the high ten that they began to produce excellent levels of language as a byproduct of their new-found motivation. I repeated this constantly over a three-month period interspersing added stars and vocal encouragement, eventually fading out the leveled rewards just giving them high tens all the way demanding high level language production. This transformation, while approached with a simple, habile strategy, it was in fact anything but. It was an arduous, yet fulfilling task, requiring commitment and pre-emptive thought that ultimately has curtailed my most difficult experience so far that at the same time has been my most rewarding and ultimately enjoyable one.

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The cure for anything is salt water--- sweat, tears and hotpot. This is firmly believed by the academic staff in CD3, and there are only two occasions which are absolutely mandatory: staff meetings and hotpot night. We have hotpot for welcoming the new, saying farewell to the left, celebrating and curing as it is mentioned. Hotpot is a shot in the arm. In April, we warmly welcomed Will and Sophia aboard. Will, a Londoner who first came to china after graduating one year earlier, had his first hotpot and now is an official first-time teacher in CD3. Thanks to Sophia the average height of the local teachers has been raised substantially. She would not mind you calling her Bai baihe (a famous actress in china).

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Monthly show of April

 On the 23rd the April monthly show was successfully hold by Little and Hennie. Stirred up from Hennie’s guitar opening show, the candidates were all full of enthusiasm and energy. I am looking forward to seeing next month’s show with Little dancing in the opening (she is learning Jazz on every off day). All I can say is that both the students and teachers at CD3 are talented.

They love trying and are never afraid of embarrassing themselves.

April Firsts

Everyone has their first time, here’s to the first time.

On April 1st, Demi and Darran separately had their first summer course training and TB training. It was April Fools' Day but we treated it seriously and conscientiously. Thanks for your preparation, we have a better understanding of the summer course (insert applause).

First-time teacher Will had his first life club for HF, the smell of the cocoa butter cookies he made with his students is still haunted in my mind. One small suggestion though, less sugar next time.  

Hennie and Little had their first Demo, the competition for the demo king and queen is getting fiercer now.

Darran had his first Achievement Ceremony for HFI classes, it’s worth mentioning that being a Foreign Teacher here for more than 2 years, you never stop having something new.

Happy birthday to you!

Someone says that the only thing you can get without hardwork is your age. Well, that’s not true, there are weight, wrinkles and troubles for no reason. I would like to end my first blog with something cheerful, because Darran celebrated his 18-year-old birthday AGAIN on his working day on April 26th while Rista had her special birthday at hangzhou west lake during her annual leave on April 27th  

Happy Birthday to you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

To be continued..........

Jacob's Visit and some other big CD5 News!

Jacob’s Visit and some other big CD5 news!

Just shy of a fortnight ago, CD5 was lucky enough to host the President of EF Kids and Teens, Jacob Torén, along with a contingent of the Shanghai team, which converted the centre into even more of a hive of activity than it usually is!

Jacob spent time in Chengdu visiting a range of centres across the city including the recently opened CD9. He returned to CD5, as 3 years ago during his last visit, CD5 had only just opened. The mall in which we reside hadn’t even been finished!

The CD5 staff arduously trekked along what is normally a very straightforward journey, from Tongzilin to Century City with the aim of arriving early. However, traffic, rain, and the general weekday morning rush hour made it seem like a losing battle.

Not a taxi was in sight, the bus was moving slower than a snail, and we just knew that the no.26 was going to make the world’s longest detour when Saiho Mall was in our line of sight. But between our knowledge of downtown Chengdu, some smartphones, and the ability to read Chinese characters, we ran flying into Saiho Mall, soaked to the skin, and still had half an hour to spare!

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CD5 decided to put its well-known (or at least a plethora of EF parents must know about it given how frequently our CCs post videos of us) singing and musical talents to the test Wouter and Michael’s guitar playing, weekend office karaoke and singalongs, Ellen warbling around the school (yes, don’t think we can’t all hear you from the other end of the building…), and we’ve all heard Daniel falsetto the 'Hello Song' on more than one occasion. These are staples of the daily life at CD5. Thus, a revamped version of ‘Hello Song’ with some dodgy dancing was on the cards.

As EFL teachers it gave us the great opportunity to hold a round table on a range of EFL issues, which was great for newcomers to the sector like myself, but also for older teachers to develop and share their experience. Just because we spend our days teaching, doesn’t mean that we ourselves ever stop learning. Education is a lifelong journey.

First of all, Jacob explained to us his less than regular career trajectory in becoming President of EF Kids and Teens and provided us with much incentive to strive for new goals in the EFL sector. He then caught us up to date with EF, from its beginnings, to expansion, and consolidation in three main countries with new schools continually opening throughout China to match ESL demand.

After the presentation, and much notetaking, scribbling or typing on smartphones by teachers, as seemingly notebooks are so passé, the floor was opened to a Q and A, covering a range of topics. Some discussed were EF’s environmental policy and its impact, the use of technology in the classroom, automation of education, the future of EFL teaching, what makes a great EFL teacher, the future of EF and its expansion into other countries such as those across Africa, and how EF Kids and Teens China compares with EF Russia i.e. are the parents’ and country’s demands the same, and are the skills of an EFL teacher the same in different countries?

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Jacob’s visit also fell on a very auspicious day for the school. We hit the 1000 student milestone!

This only adds to all the great news from CD5 so far this year, including our fantastic NPS scores across both Chengdu and China. And, of course, no celebration is complete without cake!

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The dreaded word... Team Building:

What word can instill the fear in even the most courageous of people? Team building!

Normally when this word crops up in conversation, it forms part of some corporate jargon, and is used by the ‘higher ups’ to try and foster unity amongst teams with the hope that they will work more cohesively and this will increase production.

People, or at least the British, will picture being packed off in some form of uncomfortable coach, or cramped in a minibus, to a field in the middle of nowhere with awful weather, and it’ll be grim, grey, and wet, when someone mentions the phrase ‘team building’. It might involve some orienteering, or, if you’re lucky, paint balling.

What is something that people also hate? ‘Forced Fun’.  But fun needn’t be forced.

Often, it might be the case in the office that as a teacher, you’ll chat with all the other teachers, and you’ll work alongside your PAs to make sure everything runs smoothly with your lessons, and that parents are happy. You might chit chat with the CCs when you have demos/OPTs/TPTs (or when they chuckle about your Chinese from the other side of the room), but do you really get to know everyone properly and work together as one big family often?

Everyone, of course, has the social circles in which they swim, that is just life, but it’s always good, once in a while, to have some ‘forced fun’.


However, how can we make ‘forced fun’ actually fun? The answer, of course, is competition!

Many of the staff at CD5 already go to the gym together, so it seemed a logical choice, that sport be the way to channel this competitiveness. Joyce, our CM, was of course on board, as there was a sports centre right next to her flat so she just had to step out her front door! As our CM, Joyce, said on her WeChat that day, this type of team building makes for a happy and healthy team!

Swimming, badminton, and swimming were the choices of the day, with many of the foreign teachers discovering that many of the local staff don’t know how to swim, whereas it is a skill inculcated in us in primary school in the UK. Unfortunately, we were limited to the shapes we could throw into the pool, so no bombing, and no gymnastics or 1 ¾ somersaults/rudies from me.

n the other hand, they can be a force to be reckoned with on the ping pong table or badminton court, with lots of fierce competition, and only the odd insult traded across the court. It was also a great way to get the team to interact cohesively as one big family, and prepare themselves mentally for a day of teaching.

Whilst some of us were swimming and throwing ourselves into the pool, our 美女们 (our beautiful ladies) decided to soak up the sun and take ALL the selfies!

Surviving Day 1 - Shannon Naude

Day 1: You’re here. It’s real. You just moved to China!

That’s a scary thought, but it’s so exciting! Your first day will be wild. You have no idea where you are, where you’re going and most importantly you have no clue what anyone is saying.  Don’t fret, it’s all going to be okay:

Your first day in China is a whirlwind of a day. Here are a few tips to survive day one in Chengdu:

1.     Your welfare officer has got your back. Trust them.

Your welfare officer is your “Go-to guy” in China.

 ‘I lost my bank card; help!’

‘I’m locked out of my apartment; help!’

‘Please tell this person that I don’t want spicy noodles (hands phone to cashier)


I kid you not, these are all things I’ve said to my welfare officer in the past three months.


They will get someone to change your locks (it happens more often than you’d think;) they will send you a message to show the people at the bank/the shop or personally escort you there. However, your noodles will probably still be spicy; let’s face it, this is Chengdu.

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1.     You will be on your feet the entire day. Choose your shoes wisely.


2.     You will feel like you are signing your life away; it’s a SIM card how many signatures do they need? The answer is all of them. Just go with it; you’ll have your SIM, bank and transport cards soon enough.


3.     You will get frustrated about the fact you have no idea what is being said on your behalf. A 20 minute conversation will probably be relayed back to you in 2 sentences; ‘it’s strictly need to know’ but don’t worry, that’s all the information you need’ the end result of the 20 minute deliberation.


4.     You will probably find an apartment on day one. Look at all of your options first; then decide. If none of them are to your liking – say so. There will be more options. Once again, there will be a whole lot of incomprehensible conversations followed by ‘sign here.’ And again; just go with it. Your welfare officer has got your back and now you have a place to stay!


5.     You’ll probably pop in to your school, briefly, but it’s nice to see where you’ll be working. This is when you should take notes on what train or bus to take. If you can get yourself to school, you can do almost anything.


There’s a lot of names to remember so don’t worry that you will not remember them all.

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You will be popping in in the middle of the work day so if everyone is busy and just says hi and runs off; don’t take it personally.

There will be loads of advice coming your way; everyone just wants to help. It will feel like they’re just saying it, they don’t remember what it was like, they’ve been here so long they’ve forgotten. Give it a month and you’ll be telling the new guy that it’s going to be okay; and he’ll be silently rolling his eyes at you too. That’s a great feeling – no longer feeling like the new guy.

1.     A translator ‘A-P-P’ will save your life.

I use Microsoft translator – search it on your App Store (Apple, Windows or Android)

2.     You have probably been told about Chengdu and their spicy food; and possibly laughed it off but it’s no joke.

A useful phrase if you don’t like spicy food: ‘bu la’ means no spice. Give it a month; you’ll be wondering why your food is so bland and you won’t need that phrase anymore.

At the end of the day, you’ll have a SIM card, probably a place to stay, you’ll know how to get to school. You can order food by pointing at pictures and use your calculator to ask for a cost. There’s still a few things left to do; the medical and a bank card; but your welfare officer will get you sorted.

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EF Football - Jake Lewney

When contrasting nations come together, beautiful things often blossom out of the earth-shattering collision: The space race combination of German/ American scientists, the James Watt steam engine drew inspiration from a Spanish invention and nowhere is this positive collusion more evident than within the global microcosm of EF.


The ardent sun glistens on a moist green battleground in Chengdu. There is no rapturous roar from Chicago today. No joy filled echo of the Hello Song bounces around the world corridor. Tension ripples in the air, so thick you could scoop it up with a lepel, a fork or even a pair of Kuàizi. While the ability to caress one another’s ears with the sumptuous, buttery English language might have brought us together, there is one language that truly unites us. The roar of passion, the scream of determination, the usually Scottish cry of exasperation! The language of football.


This is EF Football day.


9:30 AM: If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right. Fitness and football are no exception. As practice and preparation are integral to a successful teacher’s day, it is so for the athlete. Any professional will tell you: “Pre-match preparation and nutrition can make or break a performance.” Except Usain Bolt, he broke the world record 100m on a breakfast of chicken nuggets… Mine is a breakfast wrap from KFC, compared to him that’s overkill surely!? I glance around surveying my teammates choices and find they are as diverse as the dialects championing their delights. Breakfast pancakes from one local vendor, chicken feet from another and one indistinguishable looking piece of meat I took the liberty of avoiding trying. Soon enough the pre-match jitters are replaced by the EF soundtrack of laughter, breakfast has disappeared and the convoy is dancing its way through the streets to the endless battle cry of the Chengdu motorist’s horn.

Welcome, New Teachers!

So we’re Tom and Neil, the newest teachers at CD5, and we have been here for just shy of four months now as of when we write this.

It’s a really good school to work in as everyone is always aiming to support one another and support each other, with a great familial atmosphere and camaraderie. They do really become your CD5 EF family! The staff at CD5 are all really welcoming, so don’t hesitate to ask any questions, no matter how silly you think it may be.

Tom would like to point out that there are a few terms with which you’ll get to grips with and hear bandied around the office an awful lot:


-        PA (Progress Advisors) – someone who will help you liaise with parents and communicate with the children, typically they will be in class with you to help teach and interpret. You should try and work together as a team as much as possible (they’re the source of all knowledge).

-        TA (Teaching Assistant) – a part-time classroom assistant. They won’t know the children as well as you or the PA, but will help you with interpreting in class.

-        CC (Course Consultants) – someone who liaises with parents on more financial and business aspects, such as course sales post-demo classes.

-        Lifeclub – This is a session, on a weekend, where you will practice language through a real-world activity and is less-structured than a classroom session as it focuses on incidental learning, kinesthetic learning etc. This could be baking cookies, ice-skating etc. You will need to liaise with your PA or lifeclub leader on supplies, it is dual-responsibility.

-        AC (Achievement Ceremony) – This is a session at the end of a book to which the parents are invited to review the book the children are completing, and demonstrate what they have learnt. At the end there is a mini graduation ceremony.

-        OL (Open Lesson) – This is a lesson during the course that is in front of the lessons and planned for you, though there is flexibility, and you can aim to get the parents involved.

CD5 is to the South of city, and can be reached in a variety of ways:

-        Many foreign teachers life in areas such as 桐梓林(Tongzilin) and the 115> Global Centre > 26 > Saiho Mall run frequently and will cost you about ¥4

-        From Tongzilin Metro station you can grab the metro to Century City and the 185 bus from the crossroads to work

-        Or you can grab a taxi which some of the staff do in the evenings together. This will cost about ¥20, so about ¥5-6 if you manage to fill the taxi.

Our mall/shopping centre, is Saiho Mall and we are based on the 3rd floor (or 2nd floor in English as the ground floor is 1st floor in China). In the mall there are all the amenities that you would need, clothes shopping, a gym which many staff frequent and gave us discount, cinemas, bookstores etc.


Finally, just a bit on food and eating. In Saiho there is a range of options and the teachers all tend to eat together, often with other teams i.e. PAs and CCs.
Often we eat at Mr Rice (Tom’s favourite place to eat) on -1 floor, which is a canteenesque restaurant where lunch/dinner comes to about ¥20, and the amount of rice alone that they give you is often enough to fill you up!

There are also other options including dumpling bars where you can make a sauce according to your preference for sweet/sour/spicey/salty/bitter etc. and you can even add MSG if you really want(?!). On the top floor, as is standard fare, is the food court where we often eat at weekends; this has a whole host of options and different types of restaurants.

Work Address:


Tongzilin, Carrefour, Xin guang lu: