We launched this “On the Job” series to find out how people use English in their working lives. We talk to them about jargon in their profession, writing on the job and what advice they’d give to learners of English.

Teacher and Teacher Trainer Sarah Williams

Who do you work for?

Sarah Williams: I work for Beijing BISS International School and Chaoyang Education Department on the ‘Chaoyang English Project’, a  teacher training project for Chinese teachers of English.   I work in a reputable local public school.

What is your position?

I am teacher of English and a teacher-trainer at the same time.  I teach English as a Foreign Language to students in Grade 7 (aged 12-13) along with my Chinese teaching partner. By co-planning and co-teaching  with my   Chinese teaching partner I  help train her in western, student centered, dynamic teaching styles.     I also contribute to the training programme for Chinese teachers and Native English teachers.

How important is being able to speak/write good English in your job?

Extremely important.  My teaching partner and I teach the whole lesson in English, so it is really important to speak and write clearly and accurately, but also to be able to simplify the language so that the students can follow the lesson in their second language.   You have to be careful not to fall into what Peter Hessler, in his book ‘Oracle Bones’ calls ‘Special English’.

Does your field have its own particular jargon? Could you share some of the more unusual terms with us?

ICQ’s,  – Information Checking Questions
CCQ’s – Concept Checking Questions
Lesson objective – what student’s will have learned by the end of the lesson
Starter – a short activity  to get student’s ‘warmed up’ and thinking in English
Plenary – a short activity at the end of the lesson to check whether you have achieved the Lesson Objective
Differentiation – making the exercise or activity easier for weaker students, and more challenging for more able students, so that they can all achieve according to their own ability.


Chaoyang English Project


Do you ever ask another person to proofread your work? If so, in which circumstances?

I often proofread work for other people, for example, I proofread the exercises and  exam papers written in English  by my Chinese colleagues, and I also proofread the English presentations that the students compose when they are taking  part in English speaking competitions.   I also proofread my own lesson plans, worksheets and reports that I write for BISS periodically.  And I proofread this blog post!

What mistakes or phrases in English do you find most annoying? Why?

I get really irritated by people who misuse  ‘less’ and ‘fewer’  e.g. ‘He’s got less friends than I have’; ‘five items or less’ (at the supermarket).  It just seems straightforward to me that you use ‘less’ with uncountable nouns and ‘fewer’ with countable nouns, but many native English speakers seem unaware of this rule.  My Chinese students, understandably, often mix British and American English, as it is really hard for them to know which is which, and  I must confess that I am quite a  stickler for making a clear distinction between the two.

What advice would you give to learners of English to help them improve their English in the workplace?

Be brave and keep trying to use your English at every opportunity.   There are many different ‘English’ accents and types of English and so the more you interact with native speakers and become familiar with their different forms of English, the better. Also, keeping a small notebook to write down the new words you hear is a good idea.

Would you like to add anything you think our readers would find interesting?

I can share a few websites I use in my work:

English-4u.com –  lesson plans and ideas  for teaching EFL.

Puzzle-maker – a great website for making word searches, crosswords and word puzzles for practicing new vocabulary.

Teach-nology.com – a great website for downloading worksheets


Want to hear what some of the other interviewees said?  Head over to the On the Job series home page here.