What do English people typically eat for breakfast?

English people eat a verity of different kinds of breakfasts. The traditional “Full English Breakfast” of fried food to a “Continental Breakfast” of cereal and bread.

Full English breakfast - Sausage, tomato, baked beans, fried eggs, bacon, mushrooms, bread and a glass of orange juice.

Image: Full English breakfast – Sausage, tomato, baked beans, fried eggs, bacon, mushrooms, bread and a glass of orange juice. Most English people do not eat a full English breakfast every day. Don’t know where you got that from. Most people have a “continental” style breakfast which means cereal, milk and fresh fruit juice plus tea or coffee. Muesli and porridge are also common choices

When I was in the army, I did have a full English breakfast every day. You need to energy. Outside of the forces, a full English is a bit of an expensive treat. It is also rather a large breakfast and would make the average person gain weight quickly. Most people would be happy with just part of the full meal – e.g. toast with fried eggs one day, sausages another, bacon on another.

There is no strict definition of what is in a full English Breakfast. The core would be sausage, bacon, eggs and baked beans. Other items depend on the location. Black pudding is a north of England item, not popular in the south. Tea can be swapped for coffee. Fried bread may become toasted bread or just bread with butter. The egg may be fried but could equally be poached, scrambled or boiled. Some may include a fish such as kippers in place of all the meat. Side note – in Scotland you will find hotels advertising a “Full Scottish Breakfast”, in Ireland, they have a “Full Irish Breakfast” and likewise for the Welsh too. The Scottish/Irish/Welsh/English breakfasts exactly the same thing: just a spot of nationalism has been added.

When staying at a hotel or B&B I will always ask for a full English breakfast so as to get the most for my money. In such cases, I might skimp on lunch. Really the breakfast becomes a brunch. At most English B&B, you can have the full English plus follow up with cereal, fruit, jam and toast so you really have a large meal first thing.

However, a full English breakfast is not the only thing, or even the most common thing, that English people eat for breakfast. Below are a few other common breakfast choices.

A bowl of cornflakes with milk

Image: Corn Flakes in milk

A bowl of porridge

Image: Porridge is a traditional staple and still popular


Image: Muesli with fresh chopped bananas and milk. A traditional European breakfast that has gained popularity with the health conscious.

A plate of kippers

Image: Kippers (smoked herring fish) is a traditional breakfast dish but losing popularity


Image: Pop Tarts are a relatively new addition to breakfasts along with cereal bars and muesli bars. They are generally considered to be not so healthy.

Many different coloured poptarts

Image: Poptarts come in many different flavours and colours. They are usually eaten hot after warming in a toaster.


Image: Wheat-a-bix biscuits in milk


Image: Omelette


Image: boiled egg with soldiers


What is the day of an English teacher in China like?

Since Feb 2006, I have been working as an English as Second Language (ESL)  in China. The first 3 years at private schools, middle schools and high schools, then the later years at university.

My day starts at 6 am. I don’t really need to get up this early but it gives me the chance to check emails and not rush on the way out the door. I usually leave the house at 7:20 and walk to the university. If it’s raining I’ll drive. The walk takes about 25 minutes so I get to my office 15 minutes before time. This lets me sit, look over my lesson plan, glance at a newspaper and have a coke (no coffee available). The school has no bell so at 7:55 I make my way to the classroom. I set up my notes and check the room has chalk and duster. If not I’ll send a student to find some.

At 8 am sharp, I start my class. Usually, I’ll take a quick attendance. I teach double periods of 45 minutes with a 5-minute break between so each class gets 95 minutes with me. There’s a 10 minutes break between each double block. I usually teach nine double blocks per week. That’s two per day most days but one day with three. That means I work four days a week and I usually go home at 11:20 except for one day where I have an afternoon class.

I teach the same grade of students each year for the last three years. So I have all the lesson plans ready-made. On Monday I start the new week’s lesson and I repeat this exact same lesson nine times over the week. This makes life relatively easy. I don’t sweat over the next day’s lesson plans every night. However, it can get rather boring having done the exact same lesson twenty-seven times before and knowing that you have to do it again nine more times before the week is out. For the students, of course, it’s all new. So they love the lessons as they have been rehearsed so perfectly over the years.

I don’t have to set homework, so usually, don’t so I have no grading or marking to do. Nor do I have to deal with student problems or guidance issues. When I finish my classes, I go home. This means I’m home before noon most days and by 4 pm on the day with an afternoon class. However, my work has not yet finished.

Around 5 pm every day I will have a private class at home for a student. Usually not a university student. Chinese students have a lot of pressure to achieve and parents will pay for them to have extra classes after school every day. These home students can be from as young as eight years old. I have a special set of lesson plans made up for each age group from 8 through to 13. Students older than 13 will get the same lesson as my university students. I also have some specialist lesson plans for students who wish to apply to universities abroad and want to do tests such as IELTSTOEFL, SAT or GRE. As before, since I’ve been doing this for many years, the lesson plans and already prepared. I need just 5 to 10 minutes to look over the plan before class and away I go.

My free day and weekends are also taken up with 5 or 6 home classes each day. This means that I will do about 33 to 35 teaching hours per week. This is quite a heavy teaching load and wouldn’t be possible but for that, I have the lessons already prepared and rehearsed. For this, I have a take-home pay of about $35,000 USD per year.

I do have the whole afternoon and evenings to myself. Most of my friends don’t work at the university. They work at private schools with a radically different timetable so usually, I see them in the afternoons on weekdays.

Three years ago I was an ESL teacher at private schools. This is a totally different lifestyle from the university. Private schools in China are where students go after school to do extra classes as I mentioned already above. Now I just tutor one to one but in private schools, you have a class of children. This saves the parents some money as they can pay just 20 to 30 yuan per class rather than the 150 to 300 yuan for a private class.

The day starts late. You only ever have morning classes on weekends and during summer/winter holidays so you don’t get up early. You might go see a friend for lunch or take a walk in the afternoon. Work starts at about 4 pm. Usually, you will have 2 to 4 classes, each one hour-long. There will be no gap between classes. Just out of one and into the other. You will finish work at about 7 or 8 pm. Because it’s late you won’t feel like cooking dinner so you’ll get some fast food – maybe noodles, rice or sometimes a burger.

Weekends are usually spent working too. The school will usually pay you double rate after the first 20 hours of the week so there is a strong incentive, and pressure from management, to work more than your contracted hours. Many teachers do another 12 to 16 hours of teaching each on weekends. This can be an 8 hour teaching day with only one short break for lunch. I’ve known some schools do not even schedule lunch breaks, expecting you to do 8 hours solid teaching on Saturday and again on Sunday.

Sometimes the school will give you a book to teach from. This makes planning lessons easier. However, many schools just leave you to make your own lesson plans. Every class is a different age of students or at a different stage of learning so a 20 hour week requires 20 hours of lesson plans. Some schools have very flexible timetables and you might not know what classes you have as little as 30 minutes beforehand. The result of this is that you generally don’t do much preparation before class. You get into the habit of teaching off the cuff.

After the first year of teaching at private schools, you get wise to how your school is working you. Other unlicensed schools will offer you classes at triple the rate of your contracted school. You will give up the overtime classes at your contracted school take up some work elsewhere. This is, of course, illegal but everyone does it and the police rarely check.

Working at other schools does give you much more pay, but with it comes pressure and stress. The unlicensed schools are usually badly organised. You might have no idea what age or level or the number of students you are to teach until you walk into the classroom. However, the experience will mean that you are able to just pull a lesson out of your bag and do something reasonable. You will now be doing 20 hours a week for your main employer and fitting in another 5 to 10 hours at other schools. Between classes, you are jumping in and out of taxis to get across town to the next lesson at the next school.


What are the best cities to teach English in China?

Keep away from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Too many foreigners live in the areas. This saturates the market meaning that you’ll end up with the dregs of the bad jobs on offer. Heading for a smaller, but not small, city means that you have less competition and so can acquire better quality positions.

For example, according to Shenzhen News, there were 19,000 foreigners registered living in Shenzhen during 2013. Shenzhen is a city of about 10 million people. My city has about 3.5 million people (a third of Shenzhen) and I count 20 foreigners living here. Lets repeat that, one-third the size but one thousandth of the competition!

I have friends living in 2nd tier cities such as Dalian. They get about 50% more in salary than me. However, their life costs significantly more. In addition, I get plenty of private tuition requests that pay well for my time, meaning that my actual income is about double what my Dalian friends survive on.

Which cities? Well, I can’t speak for all the cities but I’d be looking at cities with the letter B or C in the car registration plates. Places that are less obviously attractive but still with large economies such as the Liaoning, Shandong, Hebei, etc. rather than Zhejiang, Beijing, Shanghai. You’ll find more work and you will meet more with the local people and culture than you would in a bigger city.


How can I get a teaching job in China?

The principal qualification for teaching in China is that you have completed your college education and have at least an ordinary degree. You will then find an abundance of jobs on offer all over the country.

Without a degree, you may be offered a job illegally at some schools. Do not take these offers. You will end up in trouble with the Public Security Bureau, fined and deported.

The best places to work are at universities. High school work is also reasonable. Private schools are common and play more but are often operated poorly or even illegally. Kindergarten pays the best but is hard work.

Remember that you don’t come to China to make money – you come to expertise the country and the culture. Choose a job that gives you time and opportunities to explore.

Also, remember that the higher paid jobs are usually in the more expensive cities. Getting 10,000 RMB a month in Beijing and you may find things right. Getting the same amount in Dalian and you will be very comfortable. Getting half that in in many cities and you will still be doing well.


I know many English words but can’t think how to use them

You have the process backwards. We don’t choose a word the try to use to say something. Rather we think what information we wish to convey, and select words that best match. Practice is the key to everything in language. Reading more grammar books and learning more vocabulary won’t increase your English ability. You need to speak and write and take in the feedback. Even if you get the grammar wrong and only use simple words, that is fine. As you practice more, you will get more fluent and more confident using the language. Then you can absorb new vocabulary as a baby would do, by hearing the word in context several times and inferring the meaning from there. That way context comes along with vocabulary, so if you have learned a word, you also know how to use the word. Learning words on their own, without context, isn’t really learning the word at all.


Do some native English speakers recite English words in order to learn them?

For learning new words or for pronunciation – no. Reciting words is a method used to learn a second language when outside of that language’s environment.

When within the language environment, new words are learned through frequent encounters with them in context. Meanings are not usually check in dictionaries but rather inferred through context.

Foreign language learners are deprived of the frequent use of the language and have little context to observe the words and meanings – thus dictionaries and repetitive recital of the worlds can aid learning.

For writing and spelling – yes. Many children are taught spelling by writing the word many times over and over. Spelling bees are a popular form of competition in the US and children will recite words and spelling to practice for these events.


Why major in English as a foreign language, if you’re not going to be a language teacher?

The English major on its own is insufficient for many jobs other than an English teacher. Also, many other majors graduate with a decent amount of English. However, you are not wasting your time doing English. I can tell you that 10% of my students studying English majors already have majored in other subjects and are studying an English major as a second degree as it is a statement of a high proficiency that can differentiate them in a crowded job market. Having both an English major and some other specialization is the double-edged sword that will lead to a successful career.

You don’t actually need to have perfect English for many professional functions. Translators typically work translating from the foreign into their own native language. Think about it. If I want a document translated into Japanese, am I going to hire an English man with a Japanese major or a Japanese man with an English major? To translate into Japanese, I hire the Japanese native. Whereas, to translate from Japanese into English, I hire the English native.


How does language affect our view of the world?

Language forms a structure through which we interpret the world. Without the language, we can actually become blind to the senses. For example, you were taught that we have 4 or 5 tastes such as sweet, sour, bitter, etc. If I give you some wine to drink, you will fall back on those words to describe it. If I give you a second wine to taste, you again use your pre-defined vocabulary to describe the differences as best you can. If the wines are similar, you might well declare them to be the same.

However, give the same wines to someone such as TV’s Oz Clark, and he will start talking about cow dung smells, chocolate, mouldy straw, damp bed sheets, raspberries and such like. You’ll think he’s mad, but this is the language through which he smells. The strange thing is, he doesn’t taste better because he has a better nose than you or I. He tastes things better because he has learned that language. If you tasted wines regularly and discussed them, then you may develop somewhat similar skills.

The same goes for sound. When people talk about their expensive stereo system for music, they often use words like bright, sharp, clear, crisp, soft or wooden. To the lay person they mean nothing but to the person who knows the language it means everything. Someone plays you music through two speakers and asks you which sounds brighter, and you are lost to hear any difference what-so-ever.


What are the most common mistakes in the English language use?

Based on my 10 years as an English teacher, among non-native speakers of English, the most common mistakes:

  • Am/is/as/was/were and “have/has”getting mixed up
  • Overusing “have/has”
  • Overusing simple present tense when other tenses are more appropriate
  • Getting the case wrong on verbs and so missing out the “s” on the end of them
  • Mixing up he/she or his/her
  • Omitting or adding excessive articles “the” and “a”
  • Mispronouncing “th” sounds
  • Mispronouncing “r” sounds
  • Missing punctuation or spaces between words and sentences

Among native speakers:

  • Using “me” in place of “I” or “my”. For example, “Where are me glasses?”
  • Putting apostrophes in the wrong place. For example, “Potatoe’s only £1/lb” or “How many DVD’s do you have”.
  • Mixing up less and fewer. For example, most supermarkets have a till signed, “Ten items or less”.
  • Mixing up “then/than”. Particularly Northern American people as they have become homophonic in North American dialects.
  • Dropping “h” in words that start with “h” like in “hotel”, “home” or “hospital”
  • Mixing up i/e in words like “receive”, “pier” or “their”
  • Mixing up the letters of “the” when typing fast so as to give “hte” instead. Luckily, modern spell-checkers auto-correct this for us.

How do native speakers learn English grammar? Do they specially recite it?

How did you learn your native Chinese grammar? The answer is that we don’t really think about it much. We learn it instinctively as a baby and a child, by listening to the people around us talking, which we then mimic.

I once asked a class of Chinese university students to explain to me the differences between English grammar and Chinese grammar. In student put up their hand and says, “But sir, Chinese doesn’t have grammar. We only need grammar for learning English.”

Of course Chinese has grammar. The thing the student missed was that she didn’t study grammar extensively at school because Chinese grammar was intrinsic to her. English grammar required study because English grammar was novel to the student.

Similarly, in western schools, the grammar of one’s native language is rarely taught. Students are expected to absorb the grammar through extensive reading and writing. They are not explicitly taught rules to follow but rather expected to recognise patterns through repeated exposure and to adapt them to their own creativity.

Some minor grammar points might be covered. I remember a lesson on nouns, verbs and adjectives. I remember being asked to identify which is which. However, no teacher ever told me what a pronoun was, explained the use of articles, or spent time going over prepositions. I knew, colloquially, that one should never split an infinitive and Star Trek’s, “to boldly go” was an example of such, but yet had no idea what an infinitive was or why Star Trek might be considered wrong

Rather in England, our English classes focused more on the style of writing e.gformal versus informal. We practised letter writing, story writing, report writing and poetry. We also spent a lot of time on punctuation. I notice Chinese students of English generally have very poor punctuation. They put marks all over the place, almost at random, and omit spaces. To an English person, punctuation seems to be the most basic part of grammar: to be able to construct and recognise a sentence.

It wasn’t always so. A couple of generations before me and schooling in the UK was very different from today. Students were expected to study Latin as a major part of their schooling. In fact, my high school still taught Latin and I did a little of the subject before the school dropped it from the syllabus.

In Latin, there is quite a strict grammar. So, as we studied Latin, we studied Latin grammar. Students would have to conjugate verbs and other such grammar exercises. The scene in the Life of Brian, where a Roman guard castigates Brian for using the wrong form of the verb and makes him writing it out 100 times as punishment, is taken directly from that generations experience of school.

From Latin, since English is to a large part based on Latin vocabulary, people used to try to make English conform with Latin grammar rules. Thus the study of Latin was often justified as being a method of studying and improving one’s English skills. Someone who has good Latin grammar will, as a result, have good English grammar.

I remember my French teacher telling me similar about why studying French was useful for English people. Also, my Latin teacher told me that studying Latin would help me learn French faster. I think all of these are true but only to a point.

I would say that in order to really understand a foreign language, you have to understand your own native language and at the same time you cannot fully understand your own native language until you have studied a foreign language. The study of language becomes the study of linguistics As we learn a foreign language we improve our understanding of grammar, increase our vocabulary and also enhance our diction in our native language.

So in short: how do native speakers learn English grammar? We don’t learn grammar in our native language as a lesson by rather by osmosis. We learn grammar generally by learning other languages related to English, specifically French or German and in the past Latin and Greek.

To answer the second part of the question: how should a Chinese student learn English grammar. Well, start by learning your native language’s grammar first. There is no point trying to learn grammar in a foreign language if you have basic problems with understanding grammar in your native language.

When my French teacher commanded me to conjugate the verb “aller” I stared at her blankly – not because I didn’t know French verbs, but because I had no idea what the word “conjugate” meant. As far as I could tell she might as well have been speaking Latin – oh wait she was – “conjugate” from the Latin “coniugāre“.

You need to have a vocabulary for describing the mechanics of a language before you can go dissecting foreign languages. I dare say you have already done this and pulled English apart in countless grammar textbooks and test papers, however, have you done it to your own language as well. Pull Chinese apart and understand its grammar in order to understand English grammar.

The next advice to study English grammar is to stop studying English grammar. You can no more improve your grammar by studying a book than you can learn basketball by reading books about basketball.

If you want to learn basketball, you have to through balls at hoops. At first, you miss often. Over time, you get more and more shots on target. After a long time, you can score dependably.

Language learning works the same way. You have to use the language – by with I mean the vocabulary to try to make sense of ideas. Initially, they will miss. The vocabulary fails to fall into correct sentences just like the basketball fails to go to the hoop. However, keep trying. As you make attempts, people will accept or reject your speech and you try again and again. Over time, more and more of your speech will fall into the correct pattern and your grammar will improve.