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.

Who do you work for?

Beijing Playhouse, China’s English Broadway Theatre

What is your position?

Executive Director.

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

Crucial.  All our shows are in English.  I produce them all and direct some of them.  You can’t do it unless your English is excellent.

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

  • Downstage:  closest to the audience.
  • Off book:  having lines memorized.
  • House:  the part of the theatre with the seats where the audience sits.

There are a lot more.

Have any new terms been coined in your field recently? If yes, which?

Theatre has been around for forever.  I don’t know of any new terms.

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

We print a program and advertising materials in English.  All of them must be proofread by another native English speaker.

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

Actually, I have the reverse of this problem.  “Marketing English” is frequently not grammatically correct.  It’s designed to sell something; not get an A in English class.  Frequently a non-native English speaker, or even a native English speaker who doesn’t understand marketing, tries to take catchy memorable advertising phrases and turn them into long boring  but grammatically correct English.

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

Put yourself in an environment where you must speak English 100% of the time—an environment where you can’t fall back on your mother tongue if you need to.  This will force you to improve your English.

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

Mistakes are good!  All too often students of English are afraid to make a mistake.  That’s nonsense.  Making mistakes is how you learn.  If you don’t make mistakes, then you aren’t trying hard enough.

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