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    Before Asian Games, Hangzhou Students Tutor Elderly in English

    From students tutoring their grandparents to public transportation staff undergoing English training, Hangzhou is abuzz with preparation for the multi-sport event.

    Zhu Liangyou, a tenth grader at a vocational school in Hangzhou in the eastern Zhejiang province, has a blackboard set up at home. On it are sample sentences like “welcome to Hangzhou” and “where is the toilet?” 

    But he’s not practicing for himself; rather, it’s part of his summer homework — he’s teaching his grandparents English, all in anticipation of the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou this September. 

    The homework assignment was an initiative by Zheng Jiannan, Zhu’s teacher. “The Hangzhou Asian Games are coming soon. And I believe learning English is important, especially spoken English,” Zheng told the Hangzhou Daily. 

    He added the assignment would not only help citizens communicate with international guests better, but also foster a deeper connection between students and their family members.

    In Hangzhou, Zheng’s assignment is just one example of how the host city for the 19th Asian Games is preparing for the event. The city is buzzing with preparation: from upgrading infrastructure and transportation to mobilizing its citizens, ensuring everything is ready for China’s largest sports event of the year.

    According to Zhu, teaching his grandfather English was initially difficult. While the blackboard helped, he also encouraged other family members to communicate in English. “My grandfather is usually very talkative. By using this method, he will gradually speak with us in English,” Zhu told the Hangzhou Daily. 

    After nearly a month of teaching, Zhu shared that his grandfather can now fluently say English sentences like “West Lake is very famous in Hangzhou.”

    Chen Yufan, another student from the vocational school, adopted a different approach: He tailored the curriculum for his grandparents and created tables of English vocabulary with corresponding phonetic symbols.

    “The elderly think differently from the young. I found that using teaching methods that cater to their characteristics was very effective,” he said. 

    The vocational school isn’t the only one emphasizing English. The Hangzhou Public Transport Group has distributed an English training handbook to its staff, covering essential vocabulary related to the names of the Asian Games venues, handling emergencies, famous scenic spots, and major street names in Hangzhou. 

    The handbook also provides daily dialogues in English that are matched with Chinese characters so that beginners can pick the language up quickly. 

    A member of staff at the company told Jiupai News Monday that all public transportation employees are attending an English training session. “It’s an honor to be holding the Asian Games in Hangzhou,” said the staff member. “As a public transportation company, we need to improve our ability to serve people.”

    To guarantee and enhance the quality of municipal services during the Asian Games, other city workers in areas including sanitation and administrative law enforcement have also been learning basic English. 

    First held in 1951, the continental multi-sport event, which will be held between Sept. 23 and Oct. 8, is expected to create three Asian Games records: never before has the event been held on such a large scale, with the number of athletes expected to exceed 13,000; it will have the highest number of sports categories, with a total of 40; and it will be the most widespread event, with one host city and five co-host cities. 

    Editor: Apurva. 

    (Header image: Students teaching their elderly relatives English in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, July 2023. From @杭州日报 on Weibo)