In this episode of Aussie English I interview one of my best friends Marcus and get him to talk a little bit about the following words and phrases:
- Woop woop
- To do for a crust
- To go walkabout
- Heaps of/loads of/tons of
- To turf out
- She’ll be apples/she’ll be right
Come over to the Aussie English Facebook page and chat to the many other Aussie English learners. Practice a few of these words or phrases, ask any questions you may have, and be a part of the conversation! All the best guys!
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About the AuthorI learn languages, teach Australian English, and love all things science and nature!
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By pete — 3 years ago
This is an interview episode with my friend Shana who is an ESL teacher. In this episode we discuss the topic of dating as well as the numerous words and expressions used to refer to it in the US and Australia. We are hoping to do more of these episodes in the future on other interesting topics.
So let me know what you think of today’s episode either here or on the Facebook page, and if you have any other topics you’d like us to discuss then please let me know!
To make out – to kiss
To pick up on (someone) (US) – to hook up with, to have physical relations with someone, i.e. kissing, etc.
To pick up (someone) (Aus) – to hook up with, to have physical relations with someone, i.e. kissing, etc.
To hit on – to make sexual advances towards someone.
Blind date – A date where people have been set up by friends and have never seen one another before.
Matchmaker – someone who matches two people to go on a date, etc.
Set up – when a friend or friends has organized a date for two people.
Dating – To be seeing someone romantically on a regular basis (the stage before being “together” or being in a relationship.
Single (and ready to mingle) – Said when you are a single person ready to meet other single people.
To cross paths – to meet, to come across by chance.
Fate – the development of events outside of a person’s control; destiny.
A soul mate – a person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner.
To hit it off – to get along very well
To ask out (on a date) – to ask someone to go on a date with you.
To break the ice – to do or say something to relieve tension or to get conversation going in a situation or when strangers meet.
To hookup – to pick up, to make out, etc.
To have game – to be talented at talking to the opposite sex.
The bases – 4 bases – (from baseball) said when referencing how far you got when hooking up with someone.
• 1st – kissing
• 2nd – touching or feeling above the waist.
• 3rd – touching or feeling below the waist.
• 4th base / home base – to sleep with someone / to have sex.
A gold-digger – someone who is in a relationship with someone else only because they have a lot of money.
To go all the way – to sleep with someone / to have sex with someone.
To get some – To get some physical action from / with someone.
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By pete — 11 months ago
AE 412 – Interview: Life Working as a Brickie in Australia with Rhys Linnett
G’day, guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English, the number one podcast for everyone and anyone wanting to learn Australian English.
As usual, at least as I try and do every single Wednesday, this is a new interview episode where I try to bring you an Australian, and I chat to that Australian about their life, about what they do for work, what they do for a crust, how they earn a living, just about interesting things related to that person and life in Australia. And today’s episode is no different.
So, today I had the pleasure of interviewing my little cousin Rhys. Rhys is a really interesting fellow. So, he is a pretty typical Aussie bloke. He has a pretty strong accent, which I think you guys are going to either love or hate, and you will see you shortly what I mean. Rhys absolutely love you mate. Thank you so much. But you do speak incredibly quickly. He does mumble a little bit. And he changes his sentences halfway through saying them quite often. So, that is why today’s episode is definitely for advanced learners. You might have to listen to this one a couple of times, because he speaks incredibly quickly.
So, make sure that you download the free download for today’s episode, guys. You can read the transcript and you’ll be able to better understand everything that Rhys is saying. Make sure you download the MP3 too. So, just jump over to the website, TheAussieEnglishPodcast.com and go to the free download to get your free transcript.
So, today’s an interesting episode, because of works as a brickie, and aside from this, is a world champion in karate. So, we get to talk about both those things, although today’s episode just focuses on being a brick, laying bricks, working in Australia as a tradie, how to do that how to find a job doing that, working as a brickie, a tradeie, a sparkie, whatever the trade is. If you’re a trader from overseas, there’s a lot of content in today’s episode that will hopefully help you with regards to things like getting paid, what to look out for with bosses, and how to avoid dodgy jobs, as well as what it’s like working with Aussie blokes. Quite often I hear from other listeners, as well as Australians that I know, that Aussie trendy blokes tend to be pretty brutal with their… the way that they joke around on the work site. So, there’s lots of jokes. They hang shit on each other, as we say, which means “to tease” each other, and Rhys talks quite a bit about this and what it’s like and how you should view it, especially if you’re a foreigner and you’re not used to these kinds of jokes. Rhys into a bit of depth talking about that.
Anyway guys, the intro has gone long enough. I’m looking forward to bringing you this interview with Rhys. So, Rhys, take it away. Let’s get into it.
Let’s see, one, two, one, two. All right, guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. I’m at my uncle, auntie, and cousins’ Christmas party. We’ve just had a few beers, had some… what do we have? Meat, veggies.
A bit of potato salads.
And then some fruit salad for dessert.
And I got my cousin Rhys here, my little cousin Rhys. How old are you now, Rhys?
23. So, seven years younger than me. But Rhys has become, I guess, you would say… you`re still a bricklayer or you’re not a bricklayer anymore? A brickie.
Yeah, so I still do bricklaying, but I work with a landscaper. So, I still get to do it every so often, but more like laying pavers, a little bit of everything, do a bit of everything in, like, the trade sense.
And aside from that, you’re a world champion martial artist as well.
Yeah, yeah. So, when I was a bit… was like 17, I won the World Cup in karate, and I’ve been doing karate for 12 years. So…
Yeah, so that was the main reason I wanted to get you on to talk about being a brickie and how that got started, and then to talk about, obviously, karate and where it’s taken you. So, can we talk about bricklaying? How on earth did you end up doing that? And was that something you always wanted to do or did you just fall into a trade after you finished high school?
So, for me I wasn’t very keen on school. There was a program like TAFE, where was every Wednesday you’d go and do like a trowel trade. So, I did bricklaying, bit of plastering, bit a rendering, bit of any sort of trade with a trowel, like tiling, and stuff like that as well, and I got… I was really good at bricklaying. I just sort of had a knack for it. And then I got offered a job showed on the spot, and I was about… I think I was 15, but my parents said, “No, you gotta stay in at least finish year 10 when I was 16”. So, then straightaway after that I did another course where every Wednesday for a year I would go into two bricklaying, and then I left school and got a job, pretty much instantly I met a guy at the doctors. Actually, he was a brickie. And then, I liked the trade. It was like fun for me to do and I was good at it. So, I sort of just fell into it like that by talking to the guy. And then yeah, just took off from there, did an apprenticeship, and yeah.
So, what kind of skills do you need to have if you want to be a bricklayer, especially a successful bricklayer? What are the kind of attributes or skills that are required or that you have to develop as your learning?
I think it’s more like the… I think a lot of people get caught up with the actual laying of the bricks. It’s not actually that difficult to lay bricks. It’s more about setting everything up and working… like time management. So, you know, working out which walls you want to tackle first. If it’s hot and, you know, the Australian summer, you want to be on the shade side and sort of work your way around following the shade, rather than sitting in the sun, ’cause, you know, it’s going to take a toll on you, you gonna get tired and things like that. So, I think it’s more about being smarter, not so much just thinking about I have to lay as many as many bricks as possible. Doing it the most efficient way possible. Also, obviously, you need to be physically fit. If you can’t, you know, lift a wheelbarrow full of mud or a wheelbarrow full of bricks, it`s going to make the job… your life a lot harder and just generally be motivated, when you get to work, you get there, you do your eight hours, and then you go home.
That’s crazy. So, what kind of numbers are we talking? With like how many bricks you’ve laid in a single day? Are we talking hundreds or thousands?
So, usually the… like, the standard you want to get to is 400 per person per day. That’s usually the standard. You can lay more. So, if there’s a group, we used to have a group of three, we’ll be aiming for about fifteen hundred per day, depending on the walls, though. So, if you’ve got a nice long straight wall, no windows, things like that in there, you’ll aim for a bit higher, ’cause you don’t, have any sort of the obstacles in the way. If you got a house with like windows, stuff like that, you might aim for a bit low, you might be trying to get your 400 or stuff like that per day, but that’s generally usually about 400 a day’s the goal, but if you get more or you get a little bit less, it’s sort of just depends on the walls and stuff like that.
And is it pretty competitive with the other guys? Like, who can reach this number first or get the most done first?
It kind of does, especially like as an apprentice because you kind of like have that sense that you want to prove yourself. So, a lot of the times you will race with like your boss and you’ll try to lay more bricks. But usually what happens is, because you know you’re not physically used to doing that much labour and that much work, the next day you might lay 500 on Monday, and then Tuesday you might lay 300 because, you know, your hands sore or your arms are sore, stuff like that, ’cause you’ve been working quite hard. So, it’s more about consistency as well. So, if you consistently can lay 400 each day, it’s kind of better than going, well, I lay 1000 on the first day, but couldn’t get to work the next day, ’cause I was too tired or, you know, too sore.
Was that something that shocked you too? Was it… and did it take a long time to work up the strength to be able to do, you know, days where you have to lay 400 bricks, and then the next and the next day? Do people go in and burn themselves out by trying to play too much at once? And is it something that takes years to develop or is it a lot quicker?
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I found from… ’cause obviously as an apprentice like if… when you`re an apprentice you pretty much do all the labouring and all the… you do the crappy jobs, basically. Once you start getting onto basically what, as a brickie you get called, you get to sit on the line, which basic means you’re lying all the bricks. It took about maybe a month of doing that every day for me to actually get used to being able to lay, you know, three to four hundred bricks consistently every day, more just my wrists and my actual hands, ’cause having to grab the bricks and hold them each day, and pick up a trail of mud every day, like your wrists get really sore from doing that, and your shoulders. But, yeah, about a month it took me to get… to sort of get used to it, because I suppose just doing it every day, you don’t really have a chance to have a break, whereas if you have a break, and then, you know, just try and start again, you sort of lose that muscle memory and that strength. So, yeah, it’s just basically took about a month, I think. So, if you did it for a month and you can practice and get that chance, actually sit on the line each day, it’ll… you’ll get… your body will adapt to be able to do that every day.
Crazy. And so, living in Australia is it… Is it interesting for you that you would imagine living in such a, you know, quote- unquote “well-off country” where everyone is highly educated that there are more and more young men going to trades these days? And what are the main things pulling them away from say going to university for another 10 bloody years to get a degree or a Master’s and a PhD? What are the main things pulling people towards say, you know, not even finishing high school, but ending up with a job like being a brickie or a sparkie or a chippy?
I think because you can be quite successful with it, and it’s not so much about the education, it’s more about the fact that, as you said, you know, six or seven years studying and there’s no real guarantee in a good job. So, it makes it kind of like… especially for me it was lucky, because my… I have, you know, well, I’ve got you, I got my older brother as well, who before I’d even left school were already in university, and I knew people who were in university, and they’d finish and struggling to get a job and, you know, we have Meg who she lives in Sydney and she finished, you know, a double degree.
This is my cousin for context, Megan. So, she came over from Canada and did a degree here, but couldn’t find a job.
So, you know, and I had that sort of benefit of going, well… I can still do all those studies at university, but there’s no real guarantee, whereas a trade, they always need tradies … you know what I mean?
Houses need to be built.
That’s it, you know what I mean? People want to live in houses. They need to be built. Someone’s got to do it. And you can still be really successful in doing that, and, I mean, eventually, if you play your cards right and you work hard, you do… probably… eventually, you don’t actually have to be on the tools. You can go and quote jobs and have a set group of workers, and they’re going to be doing the job for you, and then you don’t actually have to be on the tools, but you still are a bricklayer, you know, or you still are a sparky, but you don’t actually have to do all the manual labor. You still might go in each day, you know, some… here and there to get a job done if you need a few extra guys or something like that, but you can eventually get off the tools and, you know, you can still be earning really good coin as opposed to, you know, you might spend six or seven years, and then you might not even get a job for another two years or something like that.
That’s exactly it.
So, is that their main aim too of most tradies these days? It’s not to be like the old school guys? You know, when we were growing up a lot of my friends’ parents were these, you know, say, old Greek or Italian dudes who were brickies and had worked for 50 years in that job and their bodies were just totally torn up, and, you know, they just… they, you know, couldn’t sit down without being in pain. Is there more of an educated sort of take on that these days and trying to get you out of using tools for your entire life, and more towards say like managing your own business and having your own guys, than, yeah, just sticking to the tools and smashing it out your entire life?
I think… I mean, I’m not… I can only speak from my generation, cause a lot of my friends are tradies that pretty much everybody that I know who is a tradie is roughly around my age, you know, give or take, that is generally the goal, is to get to a point where either you’re running your own business and you’re not on the tools, and you sort of… you choose to go when you want to or if you need a few extra people just to, you know, get a job done or whatever, to help lift something, then you might pop in. Or the other instance is to become a project manager or a site foreman where the physical labor isn’t there. Okay, it’s a lot more mental strain, because you’ve got to be organising, you know, six or seven blokes, and making sure that everyone’s making their quota, you’re making money and they’re making money, and also the business itself is making money. Or, yeah, you go into more like a commercial side of thing, where you’re a foreman or, you know, you’re site supervisor, something like that where the labor intense side is not… it’s not going to basically, as you said, you’re not working for 50 years doing that trade and absolutely be wrecked by the end of it.
I know for a fact that everybody that I know that’s a tradie, that’s the goal, and it’s basically just taking the steps that you need to do towards that. You know, it’s not going to happen overnight. You’re not going be doing it at, you know, 23 or something like that. It’s more looking at 30, 35 when you’ve got a family and stuff like that. So, you’re not having to do all that physically demanding labor that’s going to, you know, limit you to be able to play with your kids, you know, play a bit of footy with the kids or, you know, take them swimming and stuff like that or, you know, being able to actually be active at that age rather than, you know, slugging it out, and you still might make a lot of good money, but you can’t really enjoy life afterwards.
I was going to get on to too talking about foreigners who have come over to Australia and could potentially obviously do these jobs or maybe they did these jobs in their home countries. Would you encourage listeners who are potentially not living in Australia to come over here and take up bricklaying or continue doing this job over here? Is it easy enough for foreigners to get into as well?
I find… to be honest, I mean, I’m only speaking from the people that I’ve work with who are foreigners, whether they be from England, from India, from, you know, Asia, any sort of like place that they actually work a lot harder because… especially if they’re trying to get citizenship here or residency that there’s a lot more on the line for them. For us, it’s, you know, it’s just a pay cheque.
You know, you might not get as much as you got last week, ’cause you, you know, you didn’t work hard enough or you know… I think we take it for granted how lucky we are that there’s so much work available and it’s so easy to get, like, especially if you’re working in the trade, it’s pretty impossible not to get a job, you know? If you really want to work, you’ll find something. You just gotta be wanting to do , you know, the harder job sometimes to then maybe get, you know… do the harder jobs for a few months, and then is going to lead into something that’s going to make, you know, a lot better, or… I mean, and if you’ve got the trade background, so if you are, you know, a brickie in your own country and you’re thinking maybe you’ll come over here for some work, I mean, generally, most of the time they work a lot harder, and they’re… you know, there’s no skill difference. It’s more just about getting out there and, you know, putting yourself out there to get the jobs rather than just, you know, chucking out a few messages. You’ve got to actively seek the jobs. If you drive past a job site or if you go on a train pass a job site, pop in, let them know that you’re looking for work, and they’ll probably, you know… tradies know tradies. So, I might not know somebody to, you know, for… looking for brickies, but I know a friend of a friend who’s a brickie who needs, you know, blokes to help him out. So, there’s always ways of getting, you know, people who are always asking for, you know, extra blokes for work and stuff like that. So, if you talk to one bloke, you know, they’re going to be… surely know somebody who needs an extra hand.
And what sort of advice would you have for them for coming to Australia? Say, they’re the best bricky in the world, they get the job, they come to the site, but they feel like they don’t mix well with the people there or they can’t communicate with them as well as they’d like. I have that… I’ve heard that from a few friends before, where they say they just seemed to be teased quite a bit or that they just don’t understand the slang or the accents. What kind of advice would you have for those people on how to learn the language or better fit in as well in these kinds of sites? Should they take this kind of stuff seriously with regard to like say being teased? Just do you wanna talk about that for a sec?
I think, for me, like, majority of the time, for… especially like in a trade atmosphere, there is a lot of… I won’t really call it “bullying”, because it’s all in good fun. Like, it’s very… I mean, me speaking personally, I’ve been on loads of different sites, with loads different crews, that majority of the time, everyone’s just taking the piss. We’re just having a bit of a laugh, sometimes it gets a little bit personal, and generally for me, I usually just… whoever’s, you know, sort of takes it a bit to far, just take them to the side afterwards like, not in front of everybody else, and say, “Look, I don’t really appreciate you talking like that”, you know, or “mentioning stuff like that”. I’m all for a laugh and, you know, if you make a mistake or you slip over in the mud or something like that and you get your clothes dirty, look, I’m all for a laugh. You know, if you want to make a bit of fun of me and stuff like that, I just… you know, I’ll laugh with you. It’s funny. We get over it, and stuff like that, but I feel like if it ever gets taken a bit too far, just to talk to the person who did, one on one, don’t do it in a group, and stuff like that, and just sort of address it, and just say, “look, I don’t appreciate it”. Like, I’m all… job sites are meant to be fun. You’re meant to have a bit of a laugh and, you know, take the piss a little bit with each other, but if it sort of oversteps boundaries a bit, I feel like you should just, yeah, talk to the person who did it and just let them know that you don’t appreciate it, and, you know, generally, most of the time tradies are pretty good. Sometimes, you know, in the heat of the moment, you might get… say something that, you know, you shouldn’t have said, and generally, they’re probably agreeing with what you’re saying. It’s probably just the best option to talk to them about it. You know, one on one. Just sit… you know, after it happens, or at the end of the day, or at the start of the next day, just let to them know. That’s probably the way I would say. Whenever I’ve had an issue with somebody, I’ve always sort of spoken to them, like, personally, after work or the next day in the morning.
I guess, that’s an important thing to know too that it’s not just unique to foreigners, getting say, you know, teased by Australian blokes. It is just that you guys tend to do this to one another, and it’s an important thing, I guess, yeah, is… it’s almost like telling kids at school not to react to bullies, because it’s almost like people are testing you to see how you’re going to react. And they… I think, for me at least, most of the time I’ve been in these environments people are looking to see that you can take a joke and that they can… they want to see if they can press your buttons, right? And you need to try not to show them that it’s affecting you. But it is… yeah, if it does get that bad, always either talk the person or talk to the manager or someone.
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Yeah, yeah, exactly.
But what advice would you have to for the language and how to fit in learning the language that’s spoken? ‘Cause, I know that it is pretty… it’s a lot more full of slang than say the… you know, what I would experience at university or in a job in a café or something. What would you… what sort of advice would you have if you had an Indian bricklayer come and work with you, and he said to you, “I want to speak about how you guys speak?”. Do you have any advice for those sorts of people?
I think if you… exactly what you said, if they actually are… come up and ask, and say, “look…”, I know for 100% for me if we had, you know, anybody who… I mean, I’ve lived overseas and stuff like that before, and I have to explain sometimes what I’m speaking about or talking about just because…
Even to native English speakers, right?
Yeah, even to native… You know, I’ve lived in England and even the people who speak English they would struggle understanding what I was trying to convey sometimes, just because of the… you know, you slip into your slang and they don’t really understand what you’re saying, but I think like, yeah, the golden rule is if you approach someone and say, “look, I want to learn to speak the slang and understand what you guys are talking about”… because even for me, like, some people that I meet, I’m like “what?”, like, I don’t understand what they’re saying, and then, you know, usually, I’ll just ask them and it clicks and it kind of like makes sense. So, if you ask the people that you know, especially, if you get hired I will just talk to the boss and say, “look, I want to learn the slang and, you know, I want to approach them more” or approach to the guy to say, “Look, you know, if I… can I… is it okay if I ask, you know, if I don’t understand or something like that what you’re saying and you can explain it to me”, then, you know, that’s like you’ve already gone leaps and bounds in terms of understanding the slang, because, as I said, sometimes I don’t understand what people are saying. So, it’s just more about, yeah, just ask, if you don’t understand what they’re saying or, you know, just approach them beforehand at the start of the day. And then maybe they can even just give you a few things that they already say off the top of their head, yeah, and explain it, that way you already sort of have a rough idea.
Exactly, and I think that goes for any area that you working in in Australia. I would say try and pay attention to these things. Ask someone. Don’t just let it slip by, because you won’t pick it up if you have to constantly keep sort of going past, and then, you know, take a note of it and try using it. Try saying it the next day. Don’t be afraid of saying it incorrectly, ’cause I’m sure that even, you know, wherever you work if someone was to say something incorrectly, you’re just going to have a sort of laugh and a giggle, correct them, and then move on.
Yeah. If anything, I think it kind of adds to the camaraderie, you know?
And that you can take a joke and the people can take the piss.
Yeah, exactly, like a lot of a…. the workplace I work at the moment, pretty much everybody has a nickname. Like, one of the guys has a nickname he mumbles a lot. So, we call him “Mumbles”, and it’s stuck, like, you know, like glue. So, you know, I wouldn’t take it as a bad thing if you, you know, muddle up a… some sort of slang that you’re trying to use, because it’s going to end up being your nickname, and it’s got to actually, if anything, it’s going to put you more within the group rather than push you away.
I think that goes with teasing a bit too, right? If people don’t tease you, it’s almost like you should probably… in these kinds of environments, potentially be a bit worried, because I remember being at jiu-jitsu and asking one of the guys there, “Why are you constantly making fun of me, mate? Like, do you not like me? Or like, is there something I can do, you know, to fit in better?”, and he’s like, “Mate, we do! That’s why we’re teasing. If we didn’t like you, we wouldn’t talk to you”.
Yeah, exactly, and I think that’s like… I mean, I know for like the boss that I work with, I’m like… we’re really quite close with him, and generally, if we…, I mean there’s me, the boss, and another guy who are sort of the main three workers, and basically, if we’re not making fun of you and including you in the jokes, we might… I mean, it might be more directed at you or something like that, but I wouldn’t take it personally, I would think that, if anything, you’re more included. And, I mean, you know, I get teased all the time at work as well, but you know, everybody knows that we can take a joke and give it back as well. So, if you are getting included by being, you know… it’s kind of… I won’t really like to use the word “bullying” and “tease”. It’s more just like you just having a bit of fun, and, you know, just if you noticed something like, you know, I wore a T-shirt that said “Rockstar” on it, so then I became “Rockstar Rhys”. So, you know, it was a thing to be but then it kind of like… it kind of stuck as a nickname and then now it’s funny, you know what I mean? And we all laugh about it, and then if I ever wore it again everyone would be like, “Hey, rock star!”.
I think there’s a very Australian thing to is learning to take a joke and not take stuff too seriously, and you should be able to tell when to take it seriously and when not to. But that’s, I guess, something that you have to kind of learn if you come from a completely different culture, it can be a bit of a shock sometimes, but I think, yeah, you have to come into it knowing, alright, Australians have a sense of humour and they like to joke with one another, especially, their closest friends will usually cop the brunt of these kinds of jokes, and if they don’t joke with you, they probably don’t like you very much.
Yeah, exactly. I think you, yeah, you’ve hit the nail on the head there where it’s exactly… exactly what you’re saying. If you’re not getting included in jokes with… I mean, all of my friends… I’m a short person, and all my friends always tease me about it, you know. Like…Oh, whatever we’re… if we’re going out shopping, they’ll… “Oh, man! There’s room in the six-year-old girl’s or something like that for you.”.
And then you remind them that you’re a black belt in karate and kick the shit out of them.
Exactly, you know, and that’s just the way things work. You know, I’ve got a mate who is… he’s… I mean, he’s quite heavyset. So, whenever we go, “Oh, mate, I don’t know if you’re allowed in the lift as well with us. You know, “It’s going to be too heavy”, and stuff like that. But, you know, it’s because he’s my mate that I do that, you know? I wouldn’t just walk up to somebody who, you know, who’s on the heavier side and just tell them that if I don’t know who they are.
And if you were actually worried that they were too heavy to get in the lift, you probably wouldn’t say anything. You just wouldn’t go in the lift.
Exactly, but I suppose, especially for a construction site side of thing, exactly what you said. If you’re not sort of being included in the jokes and, you know, even a little bit directed at you or directed to other people, you’re more included in the group. So, I wouldn’t take it to heart, and most of the things that are said on the job site are, you know, they’re just throw away comments, you know. They just say them.
Do you have any other do’s and don’ts, I guess, for working on a job site in Australia, especially if you’ve come from a different culture, speak a different language? And are there things like say, making sure you go to Friday night drinks and that sort of stuff that the listeners should try and do?
Yes. So, if… I mean, especially if you… I mean, if you’re first starting off you might, I mean, if you get like a Friday night drinks, something like that. If they offer you to come, I would say 100 percent you should go, because you’re being asked to come in and join, you know, join the other colleagues, the other workers, and it’s going to… it’s going to make you more including the groups. It’s going to make work life a lot better. I mean, I would say the first time you get invited 100 percent go. Obviously, if it doesn’t work with your schedule you’ve got things to do like after that, then, you know, you might have to miss a couple here and there. But if you… if the first time you definitely get invited, I would say 100 percent you should go just because it’s going to increase that camaraderie and it’s gonna make you more included in the group, and just can make work life a lot better.
What are your thoughts, if you were to start working on a work site and there’s just one guy who constantly doesn’t want to hang out with you outside of work? What does… How does that make you and everyone else there feel too?
I think for me… I don’t really… I’m not really too stressed about it. Sometimes you just don’t get along with some people. Some people are just there, they want to do their job and go home. So, I think, you know, I would always make an effort. You know, I’ll try to make an effort and most days. If I’m going out somewhere with a couple of guys from work, I’ll always invite as many people as I can, ’cause, you know, it’s just what you do. If you’re going out for a couple of beers after work, if you’re right near a pub, we invite everybody. If anyone wants to come down, we gonna have a couple drinks, you know, you’re more than welcome too.
And this is probably the most important thing if you’re from an overseas country and you want to make Australian friends, it’s make sure you socialise with these people.
Yeah, I mean, even if, you know, as you’re saying, if you’re struggling to understand what people are saying and stuff like that, just being there is going to make it, you know, it’s going to take a whole lot better. Just, you know, by having a presence there, you know, you’ll get included into things, they’ll invite you out, you know, just… just being there is going to be, you know, so much better than if you’re not.
And if for no other reason, but to practice your English.
Exactly, you know, you’re going to get a really good opportunity to practice your English, and I suppose you’re on… not even on a job site or someone that, you’re having beers, it’s gonna be even better opportunities to go, “Oh, look, what do you mean by this? Or, you know, I am saying this right? Or something like that, ’cause it’s a less more … you know, when you’re at work, you’ve got things to do. So, you can’t stop people and ask them, “Is it… Am I saying this correctly?” ’cause you got, you know, you’ve got certain things you have to get done for the day. Whereas, you’re having a couple of beer you can sit there and talk for 20 minutes about, you know, this is the way you say it, this way, and, you know, whatever it might be.
And so, I guess, a few more little housekeeping things about being a tradie in Australia. What was it like when you first started with regards to pay, and how’s it ended up today? Like, for people interested in wanting a career in Australia, what kind of income can they get as an Australian bricklayer when they start all the way up to where you’re at currently?
So, it depends on the age. So, if you… I mean, I’m assuming most people would be moving to Australia or trying to become a resident of Australia, they’re are going to be over the age of 21, which will make you a mature age student. So, I’m not exactly sure on the exact pay of a mature student, but I’m close to sure… say, I think is about 700 a week and that’s on a wage. And that’s… if you’re a first year or second year, sorry a first year, and then I think the increase isn’t as much as if you were younger. So, for me, I started on about 360 dollars a week, as a first year, but then, the jump was big. It was up to like, you know, 500 for when I was a second year. So, I think the jumps are less frequent, but because you’re obviously a mature aged, you got rent, you got food, you’ve got, you know, your car, you’ve got more bills and stuff to pay. They start you off quite high, and then the jump isn’t as big. If you’re a qualified bricklayer, you can pretty much expect to get about close to 350 to 400 a day. And that’s if you’re a subcontractor. If you’re on a wage, it might be a bit different, because they have to include things like super, tax, and your annual leave, and things like that. So, it might be a little bit less, but in the long run it means less stress for you about having to work out your own tax and what you get is what you take home, as opposed to if you’re subcontracting you need to have a bit of a… manage your money a little bit better where you need to save a little bit for your tax, maybe put away more for your super, and if you need any insurances you have to pay for that as well. Whereas, if you’re on wages, you’re covered under the boss. So, it kind of depends on which way you go. If you’re starting out and they don’t know who you are, maybe you’ll probably get put on a little bit less, and then, once you prove yourself, you can sort of… you’ll either get a bonus or you can ask for more money. And most bosses are pretty… pretty ok with you speaking to them about a pay rise and stuff like that. Generally, the way I always go about if I feel like I want more money, is I approach my boss, whoever it may be, and I ask them what do I need to be doing to be getting more money?
And I explain my thoughts, and then I get theirs back, and you just basically talk them like, you know, a person. Don’t go in there saying you want more money, sort of demanding it. You just sort of ask, “look, I want more money. What can I be doing?”, and then, they’ll have a few list of things that they would want you to be doing, or they might have a few things they want you to be doing better. Maybe you’re doing all the work, but it’s just quite not up to scratch. So, it’s just a couple of those things that you could do to, you know, increase your chance of getting a pay rise or getting more money, but in the terms of bricklaying, as long as you land the bricks straight and everything is good, it’s just about the quantity you’re putting in per day, depending on whether, you know, you peers and stuff like that, there’s all sorts of different variations to the way you get paid. But generally, yeah I would just say talk to your boss, you know. If you’ve done three months and you saw in the same wage and you’re qualified, just ask them, “Look, I… you know, I want to get more money. What can I… what steps can we do to make this happen?” sort of thing, because if you getting paid more money, you’re obviously making him more money. So, it’s better for him in the long run anyway.
And so what kind of things do people need to look out for too so that they’re not taken advantage of? If they’re… if they come over here to Australia and get a job as a bricklayer and say, instead of being given a wage or on a contract, they’re being paid cash-in-hand. Are there any things that you would say, “Make sure that this isn’t happening” or “Make sure that you’re getting this”?
I think if you… for one, if you get a contract, read it. And, you know, go through it and if you don’t understand, get somebody who is, you know, competent in English, and who can read it and understand it. Maybe they speak your language and then they can convey it back to you, because you don’t want to sort of get any hidden clauses or anything like that, or something they might say, you know, if you make a mistake once, you’re gone, and they don’t have to give you any notice. So, if you got a contract there, just make sure you read it and understand it. If you don’t have a contract and you’re getting paid cash, it’s a bit dicey, because you’re not in… You don’t have a contract and you don’t…you’re not on their books, so they can pretty much… the work’s going to be very…. if there’s no work on, you’re not going to be getting a day’s work. So, if you’re getting paid cash, I’d be prepared that I’ll maybe have a backup, a plan B. So, if you’re getting paid cash and the job’s good, even just, you know, keep in touch with your boss and just say “Look, can you just let me know if work’s going to go quiet and give me like a week’s notice, so I can, you know, sort something out?”, rather than him just saying, “Look, tomorrow, there’s nothing on you for the next four weeks.”.
And you’re caught with your pants down.
Yeah, and you just, you know, you’re in a bit of a pickle. So, I would have had to have a plan B. So, you know, I’d always be sort of looking out and seeing if there’s anybody… especially, if you’re getting paid cash. If you’re getting paid cash and you can have a look on, you know, things like Gumtree or, you know, any sort of classifieds, and see if there is anybody who needs brickies. And just call them, you know? You just call them and say, “Look, I’m a brickie at the moment, what are you offering? I’m put in this many per day”, and most blokes will give you a trial, a day trial. If you live up to what your expectations are or, you know, what you’ve said you’re going to do. So, if you say “Look, I’m going to put in 400 a day on the straight wall”, you know, every day. If you’re doing it, then you know you can pretty much make sure if you’re saying, “Look, I want 350 a day” or whatever it might be, you’re probably going to get it. So long as you’re not going to say “Look I’ll put 600 in a day” and you know, you only getting 300. Then you need to live within your means. So, if you can do this every day and, you know, you’re… he’s happy with you doing that, he’s happy to pay you that, then, you know, you’re going to be able to do that easier, I suppose, rather than if you just sort of work with one bloke and sort of put a lot of trust in them, especially, if you’re getting paid cash, it’s very likely that they’ll just…as soon as… basically, as soon as they… it’s costing them money to have you, you’re gonna get the flick.
And so, I guess before we switch on karate, out of all the trades, what would you say are the benefits and the cons, I guess, the pros and the cons of doing each one of these, and which one, if you could start from scratch, would you pick? You’ve got being a bricky, bricklayer, chippy, carpenter, dunny diver, plumber, and then I say, a sparkie, an electrician. Out of all of those which have it best?
I think it sort of depends on whether you’re talking about domestic or commercial. I think brickies, physically, have it the hardest, just because it’s not always, you know… other trades have to do really physically parts of their job, whereas ours consistently every day you’re going to be doing a hard job. It might not be the hardest, you know, you might not have to be lifting up, you know, 200 kilo beams as a, you know, a chippy or something like that help out to, you know, do a second level floor, but every day is going to be putting in at least, you know, 300 to 400 bricks a day. So, every day you gonna come home and you’ll be tired.
Just this consistent labor.
Consistent labor, yeah, exactly. Chippies, I think, it’s quite good. If you’re…you know, some days you might be doing a lot of finishing off. So, it’s not as physically demanding. It’s the more technical side. But then other days, you know, you might be putting up frames and lifting up whole walls and stuff like that. So, it’s physically demanding. Plumbing, I mean, yeah, it’s, you know, dunny divers. It’s a bit of a… pardon the pun, “shit job”.
But, that’s for me, I mean, there’s so many different aspects of plumbing, and all trades really, that you got to look for… but, if you’re doing a domestic trade, you’re going to be dealing with toilets and stuff like that. So, if you’re not a big fan of bad smells and things like that, there’s obviously a downside to that. I think, in my opinion, probably sparkies are the best, just because of one: you don’t have to carry around a lot of tools. So, getting from job to job, it’s not as physically demanding just having to pick up all your stuff. You know, you can carry a bag around with screwdrivers, your pliers, you know, and various other things like that. You can chuck it all and toolbelt and you’re ready to go. And also, I mean, the only real downside is if you’re going to get zapped. But I mean, generally nowadays the safety standards are quite high. So, it’s very few and far between.
Awesome, awesome, man. We should just quickly switch onto Karate, I guess.
Alright, guys, so I hope you enjoyed that episode. Remember, get the free download via TheAussieEnglishPodcast.com. You should be able to find the link in the description for today’s episode to this episode where you can get the transcript and you can get the MP3. You can download them both, and you can read and you can study this episode.
Remember, listen a few times if you’re having a little bit of trouble catching everything that Rhys says. It’s good practice, because there are a lot of Australians who speak like this especially blokes who work as tradies. Okay? Your rougher Australians.
So, also remember, if you would like to study today’s episode in more depth, sign up to The Aussie English Classroom where you get all the bonus content for today’s interview episode, and you also get all the bonus content for all the previous interviews. So, the whole point of that section, that course, in The Aussie English Classroom is to give you access to different accents in Australian English. You have a listening comprehension quiz that you go through as you listen to an excerpt for about 5 to 10 minutes from this interview, and have to answer those questions, and you get a mark at the end for that quiz to see how well you were able to understand what was being said. And then also, you get to study in depth the different vocab, the different expressions, and the little bits of English like, “you know”, “like”, “um”, those sorts of interesting parts of the English language that aren’t often focused on. I love talking about why and when they are used by native speakers. So, if you want to study this interview in depth, make sure you sign up to The Aussie English Classroom, and remember, it’s just $1 for the first 30 days. I’ll see you in there, guys.
Once again, big thanks to my little cousin Rhys for chatting to me about being a brickie and what it’s like in Australia working as a tradie.
Remember guys, there will be another episode in the near future where Rhys continues chatting to me about what it’s like doing karate, what it’s like being a world champion in karate, and how he ended up doing that, and where it’s taken him today. So, he’s actually just left Australia to live overseas and follow his career teaching karate. So, he’s actually left being a bricklayer behind and he’s now teaching karate full-time.
Anyway, I look forward to giving you that episode in the future, guys. Stay tuned and I’ll see you next Wednesday for another interview episode. Catch you later, guys.
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By Admin — 2 weeks ago
AE 522 – Interview: Andrew’s 12-Year Adventure Teaching English in China
G’day, guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English! Today I have a special guest, Andrew Lawson from Queensland, Andrew you’ve just gotten back from China and you’ve been over there, I think you were telling me, I think for 12 years teaching English.
Well, eleven and a half years teaching English in Chinese universities.
So, how on Earth did that happen? How on Earth did you end up in China for more than a decade teaching English over there? That’s crazy!
Well, I had a friend who was studying Chinese in China and he said come over and teach English and my natural reaction was I can’t do that, I’ve never done anything like that! But the more I thought about it and after doing a TESOL course and some other stuff, I went and I was very, very surprised to find out I enjoyed it.
So, how easy was that to organise? You had to do a TESOL course and then was there a lot of paperwork or organization to get over to China?
Okay, now, okay. This is back in 2006. It was much easier, the restrictions weren’t so great. What they used to say is all you needed white skin and a passport from an English-speaking country, but it’s a little bit harder now. But anyway, we got over there and we were teaching in a vocational college, first off. A little Vocational College 13,000 students, right across the road, there was another university 22,000 students, so, me coming from Australia, the idea of wall to wall people.
So that was a bit of culture shock for you, was it?
A little bit. I had been warned about to expect things to be very very different. Even just apart from the language, but it did it worked out well, I had my wife there to hold my hand so I survived.
So, did she do the TESOL course as well to teach English with you too?
She didn’t do that TESOL course, my wife had a degree which… well, my wife is Dutch, but she did her degree in Australia which ok, it was done through an Australian university, which made the way possible for her and so, but the thing is she has a slight Dutch accent, but the thing is the Chinese could not understand it, could not pick it up, could not hear any difference.
I had a student recently who is Dutch and she wanted to get an Australian accent, she wanted to get lessons and I was like when I first had a lesson I was like… you barely have any accent at all! I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to help you because you speak like a native speaker, but it sounds like it’s almost American with a bit of Irish in there or something.
The thing is, I’ve always said to the students don’t worry about the British accent, the American accent, when you speak, speak clearly so people can understand you. Now the trouble coming to Australia is what Australians do to English does require a little extra understanding and that’s why you’ve got a job and I’ve got a job!
So, what were you expecting when you first prepared to go over to China, what were your expectations and how did they compare to when you actually got there and put your feet on the ground?
Well, it was obviously going to be something very new. Fortunately, unfortunately, we had trouble with the plane. We sat in the plane in Singapore airport for two hours because of mechanical problems. So, we were a little bit late, which meant we were tired. So, by the time we arrived in the city that we were going to, which was three hours from Shanghai by car, we’d been awake for about 36 plus hours and all we wanted to do was sleep so… but the thing is with us being they wanted to take us for a meal. They were free meals. So, but after a while they sort of got the idea that we just were not interested in eating. We just wanted to sleep. They took us to the apartment where we just crashed, but we were more than pleased with how they dealt with us and how they…if we had a problem they would come to the party and help which in whichever way they could. I have heard other horror stories of people going to China. It all makes a difference in where you go. The people that you go with and the people that you go to, there are some…
So, how did you organise where you were going to go, then? Did you know of which places beforehand or was it just you’ve put your hand up now we’re sending you here?
I contacted an agency which did place people in China and they came back with one place for me to go, for us to go to and we received an e-mail saying we want you there but then all of a sudden they must have had someone more qualified answer, answer their email and so, we just got pushed to the side. The agency sent us another school, which was in Yongzhou, and yes yes we want you we want you. Then we heard nothing. So, I contacted the agency again and then I was… oh sorry that’s incorrect, there was another school and they wanted us there, but then I saw my signature appear on a document that I hadn’t signed. Yeah. And so I backed out of that and I said no way. By this stage the agency was starting to get a little bit unhappy with me and then they said all I’ve got left is this and I said sounds good. That’s and that’s where we went, a place called Wuxi in Jiangsu Province, which is about 120 kilometers from Shanghai. Yeah a little city of about 6 million people.
Little, little city of about 6 million, bigger than any Australian city.
The Chinese do consider it small.
You’ve got Shanghai, which has Australia’s population and that’s one city. Now, China is a very big place, like it’s about a million square kilometers larger than Australia and….But anyway at first… well, we spent two years at that first college and we came back for six months for family reasons, but then the opportunity came to go back and we went back and we were there from 2009, February 2009 to when we finished in June 2018.
Wow. Far out! And so, what was that like the first time, you know, you’ve got there, you’ve gone to the place that you gotta be teaching at, what was it like stepping into a classroom for the first time? Is it the same as an Australian classroom full of kids, except they’re just learning English or is it completely different?
I would say, having never taught in Australia, but I would say they were a lot more naive, maybe that’s a harsh way of putting it, but they were a lot… they weren’t so much streetwise and they were very polite, very understanding and it was a pleasure to work with them.
That’s the reputation the Chinese have, at least in Australia, for me especially. Chinese students tends to be very polite, very hard working and they keep their nose down, except they have that negative stereotype of not speaking enough, you know, with their English. Is that true in China itself too, that the students tend to be a bit shyer than in Australia?
Well, the thing is in China you’ve got so many, so you will have some that are… oh I only want to listen. You’ll have others who have the courage to speak and you would be surprised at their level of English. Cause, having met well over the years quite a few Chinese students, some of them could carry on a conversation anywhere, others no matter…others think their English level was like my Chinese level and that’s non-existent.
So, how did you manage to survive in China for 12 years with no Chinese? And I’m guessing obviously this speaks to how good the English level for some Chinese people is, if you can survive for that long with no Chinese at all.
Yeah. The thing was, if you go to a supermarket, they have supermarkets basically the same, ok you have the products that you want. They have some form of scanner. The thing is, you want the product, they want your money.
You make it work.
If you go to a market where they barter, that’s a little bit harder, but knowing a few Chinese phrases like, “Tai qwi la”, “lower, lower”, you’re able to work out. And by their reaction you could work out whether you got a good deal or not, if they were sad as you were walking away you know you got a good deal. If they were smiley and happy, you know you paid too much.
You got ripped up. If they’re pointing at you and laughing you definitely paid too much.
That happened a few times too.
Far out! So what were the biggest hurdles then, if obviously language wasn’t as big of a hurdle or at least as big of an issue, were there other parts of the culture or being over there overseas that were a big hurdle or a big problem that you had to get used to? Like the food or being alone without many Australians…
The food was… there are all sorts of problems, but the food was a problem in the Jiangsu, our first city, I bought a loaf of bread and I didn’t know that in that province they like things very, very sweet. I put it the freezer and was just taking out a couple of slices to have toast that I defrosted it on a plate. Thankfully it was on a plate, because I lifted up two pieces of bread and there was a big pool of sugar underneath. I say they like things sweet yeah that’s…
You sure you weren’t in the desert, it was that the desert isle or…?
No, no…that…anyway. But in the last city we were at, Changsha, we were there for eight years, in that city it was very spicy food…
Yeah, so ’cause that’s what I’ve heard about, there’s quite a few places where they…Is it Szechuan Sauce is from…
Szechuan. Okay, that is another province, we have a friend from there who was in Changsha and they like things very spicy, but they have a different set of spices in Changsha, in Hunan, which was a province, the spices apparently came from Mexico about 160 years ago. It’s quite spicey. And according to what we have seen, the tolerance right through the younger people is getting higher that they’re taking more and more and the older people are saying, no it is just too hot.
So, I never got that. I understand, I like spicy food, but they get it to a point where you can no longer really taste the subtleties in the food because it’s too hot and it’s just no longer enjoyable, even if you can withstand the heat. It’s kind of like that just feels like I’m eating fire now.
Well in Szechuan province they have one spice that just numbs the mouth.
Not even nothing hot it just numbs the mouth.
Well, I don’t see the point of it. This friend who is from Sichuan Province we went to a restaurant one time and this is in China and heading over the restaurant was authentic Japanese curry, in English. You ask how I survive. Yeah I read the signs. One of the… well the menu was in English and Chinese and one was crazy hot curry.
And you were like ‘oh, alright, challenge accepted!’.
I’m not silly! Okay, she had to have a go. She got to the stage, no this is too hot,.
And that was before it came out.
….which was very nice, but we were back there a week later and she had exactly the same dish, she wanted to make sure it was too hot.
I prefer it not to be too spicy, but a lot of times over there in the average restaurant, in your mum and dad restaurant, it was too spicy for me.
So, did you have to give them a special like…can you guys just, you know, drop it down, the white man spice, you know, like a little bit less than normal for us?
A lot less than normal. We learned certain restaurants to go to and certain meals to have. Now, there was one that was from Szechuan, I think the Americans call it Kungpao chicken. Gong bao di jing was what it was and “Yi dian dian”, okay “just a little.”
“A little bit, a little bit.”
But, by going to the same places over and over, they got used to how you wanted it and a lot of times they would tell you what you were going to order. One of the first dishes in China that I really liked was a fried egg and fried egg and tomato.
Altogether, and I’ve never had that before, and oh… well, in our first, in Jiangsu Province they would throw sugar in with it to make it sweeter, as I said, they like everything sweet, but it was interesting like all over China there’s eight separate cuisines. Another place we were at in Jongzhou in Hunan Province, it is a very salty taste. I like salty things and so, I quite liked it, but my wife didn’t like that quite so much.
So, yeah you have to move around the country, do you? Until you find somewhere the cuisine was acceptable.
Now, you go to where you find the restaurants are acceptable so, you can have the same dishes, but it’s how they… how they serve them up, just how they cook them because they each have their own way of serving the same food.
Far out! So, did you get to meet many other Westerner iover there whilst you were there, or where they few and far between? How was it socializing.
Okay. We got to meet quite a few… We all came under the banner of foreigners. Get to meet quite a few foreigners, but from many different countries.
Okay, we’ve got, because of our time in China, we’ve got many German friends now, American friends. We’ve got friends from many different countries. Some people you meet, you’re happy that you’ve met them other people….Ok, it takes all types.
Were they all there doing the same thing too or did they have other sort of jobs that were bringing them over to China?
Now, in our first city I met a couple. They came from Brisbane, he was born in Germany, grew up in Brisbane, she was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Brisbane. They they met at Queensland University when they were studying. He was, he had a PhD in material science and he was working with one of the companies there. There’s quite a few, especially where the industry has gone, there’s a lot of foreigners in China, like there was over 200 thousand English teachers.
You have to remember the size of the country, the size of the population. One point one billion. That’s a lot of people in anyone’s language.
That’s crazy. So, what’s it like too, because it’s I know China is about the size of Australia, right?
2 million square kilometers larger.
Yeah. Okay so, it’s bigger than Australia, but it’s much more homogenous, right? With regards to land where people can live. They’re spread out across the entire country, right? Whereas Australia tends to be around the Eastern coast, a little bit in the North and a little bit in the West South. So, is that… can you just go driving for literally days and days and it’s just city, after city, after city of people?
Basically, if you go, say I arrive in Shanghai and go up the coast, you’ll see city, after city, after city, like where we were in Wuxi, half an hour away from there by slow train, there was Suzhou, which has the name of being the Venice of China. There was about seven million people and there’s a couple of other smaller towns on the way, Kunshan, that still had a couple of million and then you go to Shanghai.
Did it feel like that, though? Like, if you were in Shanghai and you walked outside or even in some of these smaller cities, did it feel as sort of populated as the rest of the world expects or is there actually quite a bit of space, more than you’d think?
If you’re in the city it is wall to wall people. If you are a country, ok, then you’ve got space. But, the cities because of the industry and everything else, have caused a lot of pollution. They’re trying to deal with that now and it’s not as simple as it would seem. Part of the problem would be the Chinese mindset. Ok, someone else will pick it up and this has caused a problem. The air pollution in the city that we were in, occasionally got up to like 200 on this level was dangerous and ocasionally got up to 240.
And what do you do in those cases? You just recommended not to go outside or you have to wear a mask or…?
Well, some people wore masks. I was doing a little bit of bike riding then, I would go out early morning. If you pick your times you can do a lot of things. But there were other cities like Beijing. I’ve heard it’s got up to about 700 on bad days.
So, that’s crazy I just can’t imagine that amount of people. Hopefully I want to go to China one day because there’s just so many sort of cultural things and historical things that I’d love to see and food that I’d like to try, but I can’t imagine the pollution side of things where it’s all consuming, right? Especially in these big cities where you can’t it’s not like you can avoid it, right?
In the cities, ok, the cities are growing because people are moving in to the cities. It happens everywhere.
Ok, building like the farmers aren’t making enough on the land so, they’ll move in and go into the building industry and so, the cities are growing. But the thing is, with that, with the industry and all the rest you have the pollution. These are problems that they have to deal with.
I wonder, are they going to put a lot more into public transport to try and bring that pollution down? because I know they’re trying to…. I think in some cities they have a rule where certain number plates can drive one day and then the next can drive the next day, right?
In Beijing. So, the rich make sure they have…
There is a lot of public transport, buses and all the rest. The larger cities now have subways. The city we were in has just put in its first couple of subway lines with about four or five more lines to go in, which made it quite easy. The buses were very cheap, one fare, whether you go one stop or go to the end of the terminal…
So, the buses only cost about 40 cents.
I wish they’d bring that here. It would be nice, it’s more like 15 dollars to get the train from Geelong to Melbourne and back. It’s crazy. So, bringing it back to teaching English, as Chinese students, especially Chinese students who are in China, would you have any advice, any specific advice for them if they’re potentially listening to this episode what can they do to better learn English?
Ok, one thing they have to do is practice English, read English books, not books written by Chinese translated into English, read books written by English writers.
Is that a common thing over there where they take English books or, sorry, Chinese books that have been translated into English and they read those instead of books that have been written by English speakers?
Most of the textbooks are written by Chinese. There is a book that is a real problem.
So, what does that what does that lead to? Is it just mainly poor grammar or small errors that are just common for English learners because they are not learning it from an English speaker who’s written it?
Well, in the early days, the English teachers, the Chinese English teachers, hadn’t experienced speaking English themselves, a lot of them. So, that did a lot of harm to the pronunciation. Now, the damage that has been done in grammar, like they all learn a lot of grammar, but the thing is it’s, it’s like looking at a street map, but you still don’t know the way.
I’ve corrected quite a number of papers and they’ve been written from anyone from students to deans and professors and most of the problems are the same, like some of the scientific papers I’ve read, I haven’t understood the science, but I didn’t have to, the mistakes prepositions, articles, A, AN and THE and tenses, they would be over 90 percent of all the written problems.
Wow. Does it carry over from written into speaking as well or do they tend to do better or worse with speaking?
When we speak, a lot gets hidden. When we put things together and the same over there. People will… see when they are taught English, they’re taught for different subjects, reading, writing, listening and speaking. Whereas we have them as one subject And ahis is one of the things that I believe makes it harder for them because, when they’re all together, ok, this relates to that.
But I had some students in my last college and I got them to read a passage and I thought oh… they’re pronouncing it very well! Then I made the mistake of asking ‘what does that mean?’. I don’t know. They had no idea what it meant, but they were able to parrot the words.
Far out! Because they I think that’s sort of the Asian stereotype, from an Australian point of view, is that they are incredibly good with rote learning, WITH practicing things till they get it right with regards to preparing for Maths exams, English exams, Chemistry exams. But when it comes to improvisation on the spot and spontaneous speech or spontaneous use of the language, which is hard for anyone, right? But I found that that tends to be one of the things and not because it’s their fault, but because it’s I think less emphasized by teachers.
As you’re talking, I was also helping prepare students for the provincial speech competition and they… well, they were sending me the speeches and most of these were written by teachers, not the students. Most of them I thought were utter rubbish.
And what, do they get them to just remember them word for word?
Basically. I had a teacher tell me, like after I’d said this is utter rubbish.. ”oh the judges are Chinese so, they won’t notice.”You can make it that what it was like.
And that’s the hardest thing, right? And this was always the thing at my school. They would always be those students who learnt how to solve the problems, but didn’t understand how they did it so, they would learn to be able to answer math questions. I was probably one of them, but I if you ask me why those relationships were there or ask me to interpret it or expand on it, I never could because I never practiced it and so I try to emphasize how important it is to improvise and learn to improvise by using the language all the time. Did you did you come into contact with people who had problem with confidence too? And were there any sort of pieces of advice you gave to students who had trouble summoning up the confidence to speak?
Yeah, there were students… actually I saw a movie, it was the King’s Speech. I don’t know if you have seen.
Yeah I have, it’s good.
Where he had problems speaking and you look at how he was helped and you can relate a lot of that across. I would tell them, ok, just take a couple of deep breaths, doesn’t matter doesn’t matter if you’re standing in front of a crowd. Just take a couple of deep breaths, the crowd will wonder what you’re doing, that’s their problem and ok just calm down, because the thing is if you get nervous, you start to breathe more shallow and so, then it makes it harder to pronounce the words. By taking deep breaths and slowing down, don’t rush because one of the things they kept on telling me…oh if you’re a good speaker you can speak fast…but speaking fast doesn’t make a good speaker, and anyway by speaking more slowly while just taking your time and one point at a time, you say what you want to say and that helps to overcome. I also had to teach on how to do presentations and things like this and it’s all tied up together.
Far out! So, coming back to Australia, did you experience any reverse culture shock after you were, obviously, away for years?
When I say I was away for years while working in universities does have the advantage you have long holidays.
So, you were back and forth.
And so, we were able to come home twice a year. For those 12 years, we were able to come home twice a year. So, that enabled us to minimize any, any bad reverse culture shock.
Were there things that you picked up, though? Where you were like ”oh…I never realized Australians or Westerners have this kind of behavior”, like did anything, I don’t know, come up as as strange after you’d spent time in another country for so long?
I was at a friend’s place, a German friend, in Wuxi, we were back visiting and he had satellite TV and he switched over to an ABC, Australian Broadcaster, when I heard this journalist and I thought…Strewth! That was little bit of a shock, but…when you come back and you hear a lot of the broad English, broad Australian that is spoken and oh yeah, oh yeah I used to say that.
Did you miss that? Do you miss that having that just around you? Because that was one thing when I went to Indonesia and I’ve been to France, I remember the distinct… of the first most exciting things I notice is the ambient sound in the country is different, the way in which you hear speech in the background being mumbled or like just that sound is very different and so, did that, was that a big shock when you were sort of back be like ”ok, there’s Aussies around again, I know this sound in the background.”
I didn’t miss the sound so much because I was speaking in English the whole time, I was speaking with educated people. What I missed was blue sky, and blue ocean, and if they had a cloud free day the sky was a very insipid blue very, very light blue, not that rich color that we have, well, that I’m used to here.
Specially In Queensland, up North, right? It’s probably bluer than it is for me.
I’m looking between the curtains and not a cloud in the sky.
It’s grey outside here there’s nothing.
Where we were in Changsha it was grey virtually the whole time and sometimes if it was mixed up with a rainstorm it got to the stage where you only had say a couple hundred metres visibility.
A couple of times it was quite bad. I remember going across across the river and there were bridges about every kilometre and some days you couldn’t see the bridges on the other side on either side of you.
So it was thick sometimes.
And that’s something I think that would shock me, but is there anything you miss now from China? Is there anything that we could adopt as a country or a culture from China that would enrich things over here?
Oh there are many things over there that I’d like to see here, but I don’t think Australia could afford it. What I mostly miss is people, you know, my friends, but some technological things, they have the fast train there. Now, when we first arrived to go from Wuxi to Shanghai, would take three hours by slow train, 120 kilometers. Now, it takes about 30, on the fastest train with the least stops, takes about 35 minutes.
Where we were in Changsha, we were on the train line that would go from Guangzhou to Wuhan. Now, that’s a thousand kilometers, Brisbane to Sydney, basicly. The train would do that in three and a half hours.
Jesus! That’s insane!
The thing is they have that population to… the population too to keep something like that.
I was about to say, we’d just never… we could sustain that, but every ticket would be probably more than our flight to China, right? Like it would be thousands upon thousands of dollars.
The cost over there was, well…to go from down to Shenzhen, which is right next door to Hong Kong, would cost 50 dollars on the fast train, a hundred dollars first class. But it was like sitting in a plane because it was all sealed and the chairs were comfortable and it was truly a very comfortable ride. But I saw a program on ABC some years ago, they were looking at the Chinese system and going from Brisbane to Melbourne or something Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne would cost about, well…this was years ago, cost about 8 billion dollars then.
One of the ways they are able to enhance the speed is by having the train tracks as straight as possible. So, not end.
So, yeah we have certainly a large enough country for it, but we don’t have the population for it and well… it’s not likely, like you’re talking about the size of China, I was amazed at how much water there was, like we were thousand kilometers from the coast in my last cit, now the river going through that was a tributary of the Yangzte and but it was a tributary, but it would be say, I don’t know the Arrow River, but the Brisbane River, I do, and it would be at least three times as wide as the Brisbane River.
Far out. So, I think the Yarra river is tiny, usually, like you know tens of metres across. It’s not very big.
The Brisbane River would be say… maybe half a kilometer. Maybe three or four hundred yards, but this was, It was…there were islands in the middle. Yeah and I was very surprised to learn that first bridge across this particular river wasn’t until 1970.
So, before it was all barges and and because of the area we were from was near Mao Zedong’s hometown, they used to talk about him swimming across the river.
Alright, so last question: if you had your class in front of you now from China, what advice would you give them for coming to Australia? For preparing for whether it’s for our language or our culture, are there any quick tips that you’d give them?
Quick Tips. No, but the thing I would say is work on your English, work on…well, from being back, I know that a lot of people have problems understanding Australians and so, this would necessitate getting hold of some Australian dialogue, you know, where you hear the ”G’day!”, and all the rest of it, and, okay, learn to understand and learn… most languages do crush words in together.
But I believe Australian…well, it’s no real difference, but understanding Australian because you have so much opposition, because you’ve got American English on one side, British English on the other, American and both of those branches of English have a lot of sub areas, subdialects under them.
That’s it, slang, pronunciation differences, expressions, it’s crazy.
This is basically what I’ve been doing with my ESL work since I’ve been back. I’ve been helping students who well….not students, but clients who have already been through the education system, but in the workplace and need help understanding what the man on the street is saying or what their work colleagues are saying and speaking about because there are so many idioms, so much slang, it’s truly hard for them.
Oh, brilliant! Andrew Lawson, thank you so much for joining me today and if anyone wants to get in contact with you for potential lessons or just to say G’day, how can they do that?
The easiest way, first off, would be through the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org then we could work out a way of contacting. One thing I did get from China was using their media WeChat. In Chinese, it’s called Weixin, and that was an easy way, that’s like WhatsApp or something like that, but it was a little bit more advanced and, but if you want any information on Australia or, sorry, China i’d only be too happy to help.
Yeah. No worries! I’ll definitely include that information in the transcript. Andrew, thank you so much for your time today, I really appreciate it.
Thank you, my pleasure. Hopefully, it’s helpful to some.
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