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Issue #006 -- Week 09/06/14-15/06/14
June 16, 2014

Greetings and general information

Hello everybody and welcome to our new subscribers, both from Web and from other countries in the world!

The sixth issue of our e-zine unveils bad news for everybody, as you will see in the second Social Club listed here. I decided to tell you about this as soon as the news became actual fact last week, in order to give us all a chance to do and to say certain things we would otherwise miss to do, if you would have found out about this only at the last minute.

You and your friends can subscribe individually through the form on If anybody mentions to you that they are interested in receiving it, please tell them this - many thanks. Also, they can read the previous issues on

Let's get straight into the subject and see what happened last week at Web.

Wednesday June 11 - Build Your Own Website

During this class I shared with those present the way I taught myself to build a website without having any programming experience or other web design skills.

I am using a fully-rounded system which offers a complete course starting with the first decision on the website concept and carries on showing the way to select the best keywords and design for each page as well as how to build your online business, based on the principle of CTPM (= content, traffic, pre-sell, monetize).

We looked at parts of this course together, although the computer was a bit too slow for the video presentation. The students present also found the video a bit fast too understand, but this can be overcome if one wants to watch the videos individually, as they all have subtitles which can be turned on or off.

Personally, I think this is a great way to build an online business with a worldwide presence, so I intend to create a course for it on this website. I will place it in the "Working Time" section, as this is one way of using your English for work.

We shall have another Social Club on building an online business this week (06/17), when I will outline in detail the way I shall approach this subject on the website, to give you an idea of what to expect and the kind of knowledge you will get if you decide to learn this. You will have plenty of details in the next issue of the English Corner E-zine.

Thursday June 12 – Going, Going, Gone!

This was probably my most difficult Social Club to deliver - even more difficult than my first one, when I was a little nervous, but nothing compared with this gloomy evening. I had to impart the information that I have resigned from Web a couple of days earlier, to work my last day on 2014/07/05. We use the expression "Going, going, gone!" when something or somebody is on their way out - hence my using it here.

I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep my cool, go through all the ideas I wanted to put forth to you and finish in time, so I put my thoughts in a letter to you and I read it in class - one presentation style I am not advising you to follow, but I'm glad you accepted it on this occasion. Here is what I told the students who attended that class:

"One day I learned that… when you don’t know where to start you should start at the beginning. That’s exactly what I’ll do now:

When I first came to Web I was full of hope and anticipation, looking for a united team to work with and a group of motivated and hard-working students to teach.

The ‘family’-type team I was promised during the interview and in the months that followed was not there, sadly. From that perspective, the harsh reality was that I became a part in a rigid mechanism of teaching English for money. I questioned this, with the risk of losing my popularity with my superiors and my colleagues, and it was confirmed to me time and time again that I was right in my perceptions.

I believe that teaching without caring is a crime – it’s deceitful! How?

- By pushing students through a number of lessons and levels of proficiency without letting them know their true level is a lie – both to the students and to the system;

- By taking money from clients and then not delivering the goods (lessons) in time, so that those clients have to extend their timeframe by paying more money on top is unethical.

This will continue to happen for as long as you, the students/clients will allow it to happen by subscribing and submitting yourselves to these practices. It’s like a vendor will keep selling bad apples for as long as there will be willing buyers coming his way. Then, when nobody else wants to buy them anymore, he can eat his bad apples alone or he can think of ways to improve his product.

I realised what’s happening in China, which explains this problem of the client (the students in our case). I understand it’s part of the culture and that this will take a long time to change. It has to do with the issue of trust in the perception of the buyer – (s)he would rather trust a big company, in comparison with the small businesses, let alone the freelance provider (meaning the individual vendor).

I believe that, especially when you are seen to buy a product/service you will prefer to be seen to buy it from a big company and justify your purchase on the basis that you must get better quality and on the assurance that comes with the initial promise. The practical downside of this logic is that, when it comes to challenge a low standard delivery of goods/services you don’t stand a chance within a big and well established corporation. They won’t return the unused part of your money even in the cases of early termination of a course due to dying of a fatal illness, as was the case in SIP recently.

Buying and using the services of small providers is left to the sporadic occasions of buying ‘stuff’ online, on Tao Bao and …… , which is delegated to the people who deal with that sort of small business and bargaining, i.e. wives and daughters who ‘have the time’ for such trivial pursuits. Oh, yes… they also do the vital shopping that keeps the whole family going – they buy the weekly groceries from the (super) markets and small independent vendors on the street, right from the farm, or get it from trusted relatives who grow food and breed animals.

Why am I telling you all this? Where am I getting with this story? Let’s get back on track!

I was talking about the disappointment I suffered with regard to the way things work in this company and the lack of unity and camaraderie that I personally felt in this working environment.

The only thing that kept me going during this year was being with you in class and teaching you both individually and in small or big groups. Sensing your motivation and witnessing the efforts you put into your studying of English as well as the results, more visible in some cases and more on the shy side in other cases was what kept my inner happiness on a high level during this year.

At the end of the academic year and of my contract at Web I decided to not continue in this company with a second contract and I accepted another one in a University, to prepare students to undertake degree courses in English. This is not based in China, but in Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh.

My decision to accept it was not based only on the high level of the position and the remuneration, but also on the promise of peaceful living conditions and efficient Internet access – two things I’ve been struggling with for the whole duration of my stay in China – 2 years in total by now.

Although I’ve been warned of the noise pollution in China before I came over in 2012, and knowing how sensitive I am to noise and how I like to concentrate when I work (which is almost all my waking hours…) I came out nevertheless and I accumulated more and more hatred for noise and noisy people during all my days and almost all my nights over here, if you believe me. I used to be woken up by noisy traffic around 4:30-5am in Donghai and now around 5-5:30am here in Suzhou and I can’t move again in search for a quiet place. Using ear plugs does help, but it’s not a comfortable life.

I became tired of the noise, but recently the poor Internet connection drives me crazy, so I will be glad if I can take a break from this and get back to my normal efficiency in my work and my peaceful lifestyle.

When I started working here I told you I wanted to stay here for a long time. Well, I still do! But I need a little break from this – I owe it to my health and wellbeing.

I intend to come back and carry out the project of MEC (My English Club), which I’ve been using as a platform for our social clubs lately and as a supplementary learning resource for some of the students’ needs every now and then, when I found the time to develop new materials for it.

Until I return after my next contract, I shall invite you to continue learning with me, by using the MEC website and I hope my next contract will offer me enough free time to develop it into a more solid and interactive structure, which I couldn’t do during my stay in Suzhou due to my full-time schedule and personal life. I moved 4 times in total since I came to China, in search for a better home and I got depressed with the theft of my hard drive with all my previous work in March, not to mention my father’s illness since November that ended with his death in February – making this one of the toughest years of my life.

The only support I had during this time was my 2 brothers, at long distance and you, my motivated and enthusiastic students – you were the force that kept me going all along and for this I thank you very, very much!

I am going to say this very seriously now and mean it from my heart – please don’t take it as just words in the air. Some of you expressed an interest to make friends with me and I would like that very much. Although we didn’t have time in Suzhou to socialize a lot and I usually am not an outgoing person, mainly due to my work commitments, I would invite you all to keep in touch with me by writing and seeking my presence online (by Skype and WeChat, when I finally get to use it properly). When time comes to it and you can leave China, for a visit abroad, I will be there to welcome you in my home, be that in Spain (where my house is) or in the U.K., where I intend to spend another big chunk of my life in the future, to benefit from its advanced publishing facilities.

One of the puzzles I haven’t managed to solve during my stay in Suzhou has to do with people telling me that they would dearly like to do one thing and then happily carrying on with their life totally forgetting to take action on their wishes.

Let me make it easier for you – you can choose to keep in touch with me at one or more of these levels:

1) You can write to me as a friend and tell me about your life, news, events and wishes; it can’t harm you – you’ll be using your English. I am aware that some of your emails are still waiting for my reply, but rest assured, it’s coming – it’s just been a particularly busy season and it looks like this will continue until I finish my work here in Suzhou. But you’re not forgotten, trust me.

2) You can write to me for asking for specific advice in your studying of English – in fact I’ll build a place on the website where you can ask questions and I’ll give you the answers and extra exercises for you to do in order to improve your weak points. I know the grammar and vocabulary points you’re facing at any point in your studies at Web (from IB to the advanced level), so I can help you with these as friend, you see?

3) There will be regular courses and exercises on the website, from pronunciation to grammar and you’ll be able to subscribe to a daily homework newsletter for periods of a week at a time. That is, if your weak point is the present perfect, I can prepare 7 exercises for you, which will go to you automatically (one per day) for the duration of one week. You can then be diligent and do them or not, if you don’t have the time to look into it. You can always come back to it later. This needs time, so please don’t expect it immediately.

4) Another aspect I wish to improve on this website is the part where one can learn how to use English for work, from simple things to translating, interpreting and teaching or coaching. This will also take time, but the idea we looked at yesterday, the teaching and learning of website design for work as an entrepreneur sounds really good as an addition to this site.

5) A few students mentioned an idea at various times, that you would be interested in working abroad – well, a good starting point would be teaching Chinese by using Skype to create a market, raise some funding for your travelling and then go to the place you wish to explore and do it locally. It’s easier to do it online first, as you wouldn’t need all those qualifications required when you apply for an advertised job and it would give you the chance to test your strength in this area.

6) Another kind of work you could contemplate is as a market researcher and intermediary for buyers in Western countries. You would be working from here to source required products (or even make them yourselves) and you would supply buyers or distributors in various countries – think about this as a real opportunity, should your English be at a high enough level.

I could go on with ideas, but these are just 5 good starting points. I wish you would find the courage to take some of these on board, but then I’d like you to do one thing if you do decide to go ahead with any of these: keep constant, keep at it and make it a good habit. Don’t give up easily, otherwise it’ll never take you anywhere.

With regard to our English Corner E-zine that we started here … obviously our Social Club classes will come to an end at some point (actually in 4 weeks’ time, I’m afraid) and then what? Don’t you worry – I have it covered: I shall continue to write the e-zine, the content being about new developments on the website that I'm sharing with you here. Since it was the Social Clubs that were taking my precious time, I can easily re-direct this time towards bringing our English Club to the standards we all desire and see where that takes us.

I think this is all we have time to talk about today, but I’d like to use this occasion to ask you all to not waste your energy in missing me when I’m gone, instead use that energy for getting inspired to continue with your quest of learning and using your English.

Write to me when you miss me, like Celia does from New Zealand; write your stories and start building a portfolio of little texts describing yourselves in the idea of finding a foreign friend, a business partner or an opportunity for working abroad.

There is no guarantee and nothing happens ‘out of the blue’ or ‘in an instant’ but this is the kind of opportunity when you can really show what you are made of and how much self-discipline you can have in achieving your goals. I will never push anybody to do things, I will merely inspire you to do them and guide you on the way – it’s up to you to actually make it happen.

Speaking for myself now, I already miss you and I know that these 3 short weeks will be the most difficult of all my time here, taking good-bye from you one-by-one and in groups and I know I get emotional at times like this, so I hope my classes will not suffer because of this. Knowing that I will come back here and work from a different position than as an employee keeps my spirits up and gives me hope that bigger and better things can be achieved together. I just wish you share that hope with me and I’d like to trust that you will participate in firstly improving your language, secondly keeping in touch with me and last but not least, in building a brighter future for yourselves and your families. Just do it, my friends!"

I will welcome all your good suggestions for now and for the future, like the one you had right on the spot, to organise a WeChat group. I'm working on getting myself a smart phone and so can join it, but I have already caught glimpses of your conversations on other students' phones. I am ashamed for being behind the times - I feel like an 'old granny', but bear with me and I'll soon improve on this front!

I am also grateful for all of you who left your thoughts in my Memories Book which is circulating in the Ping Jiang Centre. Let's try to finish this before July - you'd be welcome to borrow it for a short while and have your say in it. This is going to be the most beautiful token of our friendship and I shall treasure it for the rest of my life.

Saturday June 14 – English Can Be Fun!

This was another good playing session, where we explored some interactive games on the Learn English Kids website, which I presented to you previously. You can find it on:

We looked at two games with vocabulary on clothes:
First, we dressed the teddy, on: Secondly, we found some items of clothing hidden in a 'letter soup' on:

Then we played a game with vocabulary on food - we had to do some food shopping, based on a list which we say for a few seconds. We only had 60 seconds to do the shopping from memory (well, almost...). Find it on:

And I left the football World Cup game last, as this involved cultural knowledge of which countries have won the World Cup before and when and I was a bit nervous about taking this test, as I'm lacking this knowledge... but you scored 100% my friends, so it just proves that a bit of trust takes us all a long way! Enjoy this game with your friends on:

Depending on your level of English, the games can be suitable for you as well, otherwise you may feel you are more advanced than these activities require, so you may wish to use them to teach your children or other friends how to play them. This will do wonders not only for your English practice, but also for fitting some quality time with your children in your busy schedule, a time when you can actually inspire your kids or your friends to learn some new vocabulary by having fun with you.

We didn't play anything on the following website, but let me remind you of the great resource of where they donate rice to hungry people in the world when you win at your word game. Have a look and convince yourself how much good you can do in the world just by having fun learning English.

This is it, my friends!

Good to see you all there last week and I wish you all a great week ahead. I look forward to seeing you again this week.

I hope you found this newsletter interesting and inspiring rather than depressing. Give it a little thought and find a suitable way for you to keep in touch with me in the future and start as soon as you can.

Have fun in the meanwhile!

Lucia da Vinci

Founder of My English Club

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